US at G7 to keep pressing China to halt its Russia military support, seeking Ukraine war stoppage

US President Joe Biden’s administration will use this week’s Group of Seven meeting to keep applying pressure on China to halt its support for Russia’s military industry.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, now in Italy attending a meeting of G7 finance ministers and central bank governors, will call for “more action” to impede Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions for Ukraine and stop the war there.

“The US will continue to press firms and financial institutions in China and other countries to cease their support for Russia’s military-industrial base, such as through supplying key inputs like optics and semiconductors,” Yellen is expected to say on Thursday, according to excerpts of her remarks.

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The US treasury chief has sought to maintain the Biden administration’s collaboration with American financial institutions, highlighting the potential sanctions for entities that supply Russia’s military-industrial complex.

China’s engagement with Russia has emerged as a prominent agenda item within the G7 since Moscow invaded Ukraine in 2022.

Even Japan, traditionally reticent when it comes to global conflicts, called for the body comprising major advanced economies to show a united front in its June 2022 meeting.

Japan wanted to prevent other countries from drawing the “wrong lessons” from the war in an apparent reference to increased Chinese military activity in the Indo-Pacific.

In Hiroshima last year, G7 leaders agreed to launch an initiative to counter “economic coercion” and vowed to challenge China’s “malign” practices.

Yellen’s remarks follow those of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who on Tuesday stated Washington would work with European allies to impose sanctions on Chinese entities identified as supplying products to Russia that could be used in the conflict.

“You cannot have China on the one hand professing to seek better relations with countries in Europe while on the other hand fuelling the greatest security threat to Europe since the end of the Cold War,” Blinken testified before the US Senate Foreign Relations committee.

Yellen in her speech in Italy is also expected to mention the growing external debt service of developing countries, describing it as reaching “a level not seen in nearly two decades”.

While the US treasury chief’s excerpted remarks did not cite China specifically on debt servicing, a senior White House official called out Beijing on the matter.

Speaking to reporters in Washington on Tuesday, Frances Brown, Biden’s senior director for African affairs, said China had as much an obligation as Washington to relieve Kenya of its debt burden.

The US and international community must ensure “countries like Kenya don’t have to choose between servicing debts and making investments in their future”, Brown said ahead of Kenyan President William Ruto’s state visit in Washington this week.

“We do believe that all bilateral creditors need to do their part to help on this, including the PRC, which is Kenya’s bilateral creditor,” Brown said, referring to China.

Debt restructuring has been a focal point at multilateral forums in recent years. As a creditor of numerous countries in the Global South, Beijing plays a central role in renegotiations and has offered extensions of loan terms and debt cancellations.

In April 2020, China joined the G20 and launched a debt service suspension initiative, which led to suspended debt service in 23 countries worldwide totalling over US$1.3 billion, according to the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Additional reporting by Robert Delaney in Washington

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