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Under new scrutiny: China’s nuclear pledge to Ukraine

A rare, almost forgotten pledge to protect Ukraine in the event of a nuclear attack, signed by Chinese President Xi Jinping eight years ago, has renewed attention following Russia’s invasion of Eastern European countries. I am.

China’s 2013 commitment to Ukraine for unspecified security reflects the kind of commitment that nuclear-armed nations, including China, have long made to non-nuclear nations, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Russia earlier. Guarantee that it expanded directly to Ukraine to abandon Soviet-era weapons. Still, Beijing appears to be more promising than past promises, and why it chose Ukraine for such an arrangement has since confused nuclear experts.

Now, its presence appears to further confuse Beijing’s policy stance in the context of Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine and the warning that it had raised the alert level of Moscow’s nuclear forces last month.

“It is the promise of a nuclear-weapon nation to confront a non-nuclear-weapon nation threatened by a nuclear-weapon nation,” said Gregory Clacki, a Japan-based analyst focused on nuclear issues and China’s non-profit coalition. say. Concerned scientists. “That means something and should be pointed out by China,” he says.

When it was signed, China’s bilateral security commitment to Ukraine seemed unprecedented and soon in his leadership role the new Mr. Xi intended to change the established military protocol. I asked the question whether it was. This is because the agreement with North Korea, which has not identified a nuclear threat, is partly before China’s first nuclear test.

Beijing praised Ukraine’s 1994 agreement to abandon thousands of nuclear weapons from the Soviet era in exchange for security from the United States, Britain and Russia, with a 2013 warranty. .. To provide Ukraine with corresponding security to non-nuclear Ukraine, and in situations where Ukraine is suffering from aggression using nuclear weapons or the threat of such types of aggression. ” Said.

Russian airstrikes struck a maternity hospital in Mariupol, a city in southern Ukraine that was besieged on Wednesday.


Photo:

Evgeniy Maloletka / Associated Press

Initially, some Chinese government-affiliated media, including Xinhua News Agency, agitated Beijing’s agreement with Ukraine by calling it a “nuclear umbrella.” This is the term Washington uses to describe its pledge to protect allies like South Korea. This was a significant exaggeration of Beijing’s pledge, after which much of the original Chinese news coverage disappeared from the Internet.

“Umbrellas aren’t accurate. If that’s true, it would be a very important issue,” said Gerald C. Brown, a defense analyst in Washington, who specializes in China and nuclear weapons. He said the umbrella is an American concept.

Beijing’s official language against nuclear umbrellas hasn’t changed for decades and is published on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. China “has not deployed nuclear weapons on the territory of other countries and has not provided nuclear umbrellas to any country.”

As missiles flood Ukraine, one challenge in interpreting China’s intentions is that Beijing does not appear to have published an official English translation of the agreement. It can have subtly different meanings.

According to Stephen Peifer, one of the U.S. negotiators, when the U.S. offered a nuclear security oath to Ukraine a few years before China made it, it was more vague instead of a more vague “guarantee.” The word “guarantee” was intentionally used.

Still, Russia has long represented Ukraine’s major security threats, so China’s agreement seems to suggest that Beijing is ready to oppose Moscow in such a dispute. did. And it made a noise because of its influence in the third country.


Ukrainians want security as Russia urges attack

Mass flights continued from combat in Ukraine as Russian troops launched strikes on cities and military targets

Ukrainian soldiers taking pictures of a damaged church after Russia bombarded in Mariupol, Ukraine.

Evgeniy Maloletka / Associated Press

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Reading the Ukrainian agreement, it may seem more hostile to Moscow than it was originally. Ukrainian signator Viktor Yanukovych enjoyed the support of the Kremlin and opposed the partnership with the European Union a few weeks ago. A pro-Western demonstration that drove him out of power within two months of his visit to Beijing.

Russia’s bombing for more than two weeks has ruined Ukraine’s second largest city. The WSJ’s Yaroslav Trofimov reported from Kharkov. In Kharkov, residents remove debris during the day and evacuate underground at night.Photo: The Wall Street Journal Manu Bravo

Yanukovych’s visit to Beijing took place just three months after Mr. Nishi rebuilt the ancient Silk Road trade route between China and Europe, partly announcing plans for a Belt and Road Initiative through Ukraine. rice field. Upon the arrival of Vice President Joe Biden at the time, it was the European leader, not the American visitor, who received the top bill on China Central Television’s major news broadcast.

But when China’s parliament ratified the pledge in 2015, Beijing signaled that it was a deal with Ukraine, not Yanukovych.

South Korea’s think tank Jeju Peace Institute President Intek Han, who promotes the non-proliferation of weapons, said China’s guarantee to Ukraine exceeds what is known to have been provided to North Korea, Russia has agreed. I wonder if he supported. To discourage Kib from working with the North Korean Treaty Organization.

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Miles Yu, a senior researcher at the Hudson Institute in Washington and an adviser to former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, has long sought attention to the 2013 agreement. It was the third alternative to Russia and the EU and also helped strengthen China’s access to weapons systems such as aircraft engines produced in Ukraine.

“China has a long strategic interest in putting Ukraine on a geopolitical trajectory,” says Yu.

Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, was held in Beijing last week.


Photo:

CARLOS GARCIA RAWLINS / REUTERS

Wang Wentan, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was questioned about the 2013 Ukraine Agreement at a regular press conference on March 3, and reached a UN resolution on the security of non-nuclear states like Ukraine. I avoided the question by mentioning it. There are clear restrictions on the content and it is triggered under certain conditions, “Wang said.

“On the Ukraine issue, the immediate challenge now is for all sides to stay calm, exercise restraints, exacerbate and promote the situation. [a] Political solution. “

Write to James T. Areddy (james.areddy@wsj.com)

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