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Pentagon chief says Putin-Xi meeting sends ‘very troubling message’

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin answers questions during a Congress hearing on March 23, 2023 in Washington, DC.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has described Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s recent meeting with his Russian counterpart as a “very troubling message” to the United States.

Earlier this week, Xi met with  Russian President Vladimir Putin on a three-day "visit for peace".

However, the visit has been viewed by the US and its allies as Beijing's effort to show China's support for Russia in the Kremlin's Ukraine campaign.

“Xi’s visit to Putin and remaining there for a couple of days I think sends a very troubling message, a message of support,” Austin told lawmakers on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee.

Till now, the US military has not assessed Beijing as providing any military aid to Moscow, “certainly just showing support by his presence there, I think, is very troubling,” Austin claimed.

Should China decide to provide military aid to Russia, Austin warned, “it would prolong the conflict and certainly broaden the conflict potentially — not only in the region, but globally.”

Last month, US officials said there would be “consequences” if China begins to provide military aid to Russia to support its operation in Ukraine.

On Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken claimed Xi was providing “diplomatic cover” for Putin during the visit.

In the meantime, Beijing also accused the United States of “fanning the flames” in Russia’s attack on Ukraine by providing military assistance to Kyiv. 

After Russia launched its special military operation in Ukraine in late February, the US-led Western allies started flooding Ukraine with weapons and munitions at an unprecedented rate.

The Kremlin has repeatedly warned that supplying Kiev with lethal military aid will only exacerbate the deadly situation.

Continuously flooding Ukraine with weapons "will only drag the conflict out and make it more painful for the Ukrainian side, but it will not change our goals and the end result," the Kremlin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, warned last year.

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