Chinese and Russian defense chiefs hold conference call

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BEIJING (AP) – Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe recently held a phone call with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu to “exchange views on international and regional issues of common interest,” an official said Thursday.

At a monthly briefing, Defense Department spokesman Colonel Tan Kefei gave no further details and did not say exactly when the call took place.

China has tacitly backed Russia in its aggression against Ukraine, accused the US and NATO of provoking the conflict and refused to call it an invasion out of deference to Moscow. China has stopped supplying arms to Russia or interfering directly in the conflict, which the US has strongly warned against.

Just weeks before the Russian invasion in February, Chinese President Xi Jinping issued a joint statement with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying their countries had a borderless friendship.

Putin most recently reiterated that relationship in a congratulatory message to Xi on Sunday on his unprecedented third term as Chinese Communist Party leader.

Shoigu called his counterparts in India and China on Wednesday to share Moscow’s concerns over “possible Ukrainian provocations with a ‘dirty bomb,'” according to the Russian Defense Ministry.

China and Russia have increasingly aligned their foreign policies against the US-led Western world order. However, Russia’s setbacks in its invasion have seen Beijing assume an increasingly dominant role in the relationship, although China is also currently struggling with a flagging economy.

The Russian invasion has returned attention to China’s threat to use military force to annex Taiwan, the self-governing island republic and close US ally it claims as its own territory.

Taiwan has joined the US and its allies in supporting Ukraine. On Wednesday, its Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said Taipei will offer Kyiv an additional $56 million to rebuild schools, hospitals and other infrastructure destroyed by Russia. Taiwan will also offer scholarships to Ukrainians to study on the island, Wu said.

Ukrainian lawmaker Kira Rudik, who is part of a delegation visiting Taiwan this week, said the island could be the next front in the fight for democracy.

“That’s why we need to support each other, that’s why we’re getting closer and closer in our relationship. We will win this war together,” Rudik was quoted as saying by Taiwan’s Central News Agency.

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