Chinese President Xi Jinping will pay a three-day state visit to Russia from Monday at the invitation of his counterpart Vladimir Putin, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Friday, his first trip to the country since Moscow's invasion of Ukraine last year.
The two leaders are expected to discuss the Ukraine crisis, as well as ways to boost bilateral ties. In February, China sought a comprehensive cease-fire in Ukraine in a position paper issued on the first anniversary of Russia's invasion of the neighboring country.
If Xi makes a call for a cease-fire in Ukraine during the visit, the United States will oppose it, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said later in an online press briefing.
In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a press conference that Xi's Russia visit will be a "trip for peace," pledging that Beijing will "uphold an objective and fair position" on the crisis and "play a constructive role" in promoting peace talks.
Wang said that Xi and Putin have maintained close exchanges in recent years to develop a comprehensive strategic partnership, and that Xi's upcoming trip will "further deepen mutual trust and understanding" between the two countries. The two leaders will "jointly draw up a new blueprint" for the development of bilateral relations, he added.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Friday that Putin and Xi will have an informal lunch on Monday in Moscow, with formal talks planned for the next day.
The Wall Street Journal has recently reported that Xi is planning to hold a virtual meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy after the Chinese leader's trip to Russia.
Asked about the Xi-Zelenskyy talks at the news conference, the spokesman only said that China will "maintain communication with all parties."
The U.S. government hopes Xi will also reach out to Zelenskyy rather than speaking only to Putin, Kirby said.
The Xi visit comes as the United States has expressed concern over allegations that Beijing is considering providing lethal weapons to Russia to support its Ukraine war effort.
Wang claimed at the press conference that China engages in "normal economic and trade cooperation with all countries, including Russia," and "always handles exports of military items in a prudent and responsible manner."
Beijing has said it is opposed to the unilateral sanctions Western countries have imposed on Moscow over the war but showed consideration for Kyiv's position in the document, saying, "The sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all countries must be effectively upheld."
Xi, who recently secured a norm-breaking third five-year term as president at China's parliament, last met Putin in person in September 2022 in Uzbekistan on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit.
Earlier last year, the two leaders reaffirmed that their bilateral friendship has "no limits," but Xi later expressed his concerns about the war and objected to the use or threatened use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
On Thursday, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang talked with Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba over the phone and urged relevant parties to resume peace talks as soon as possible to settle the crisis in Ukraine, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
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