U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan attends the meeting between President Joe Biden and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky during an unannounced visit on Feb. 20. File Photo by Ukrainian President Press Office/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 26 (UPI) -- Jake Sullivan, the White House national security adviser, warned China against sending weapons to Russia amid the war in Ukraine after President Joe Biden downplayed the possibility that Beijing would send arms to Moscow.
"We actually haven't seen them take a final decision to provide aid to Russia. And we haven't seen the aid be provided to Russia," Sullivan said in an interview with CNN's "State of the Union."
"So, we will watch carefully, we will be vigilant, and we will continue to send a strong message that we believe that sending military aid to Russia at this time, when they are using their weapons to bombard cities, kill civilians and commit atrocities, would be a bad mistake, and China should want no part of it."
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, a fierce ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, will travel to Beijing this week, China's Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The purpose of Lukashenko's visit was not immediately clear.
When pushed by Dana Bash to answer how, specifically, the United States would respond, Sullivan said that he would prefer to keep U.S. messages to China in "private, high-level diplomatic channels."
"We're not just making direct threats. We're just laying out both the stakes and the consequences, how things would unfold," Sullivan said. "And we are doing that clearly and specifically behind closed doors."
Sullivan's comments came after President Joe Biden said in an interview with ABC News on Friday that he does not expect China will send weapons to Russia to aid in its year-long invasion of Ukraine.
"I don't anticipate -- we haven't seen it yet, but I don't anticipate a major initiative on the part of China providing weaponry to Russia," Biden said.
When pressed on if sending arms to Russia would constitute "crossing a line" for China, Biden said the United States "would respond" in that case, referring to sanctions some other countries have come under for supporting the invasion.
"It would be the same line everyone else would have crossed. In other words, we've imposed severe sanctions on anyone who has done that," Biden said.
Biden's comments appear to contradict those of Sullivan and earlier comments from U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who warned last week that Beijing is actively considering providing weapons and ammunition to aid Moscow in its war against Ukraine.
"We've been concerned from day one about that possibility," Blinken said last Sunday during an appearance on "Face the Nation," adding, "There's a whole gamut of things that fit in that category, everything from ammunition to the weapons themselves."
Putin on Sunday said that the West is seeking to "disintegrate" the Russian Federation and "assume control of its fragments," Russian state media reported.
"They have one goal of liquidating the former Soviet Union and its main part, the Russian Federation," Putin said.
"And later, [after liquidating Russia] they will probably admit us to the so-called family of civilized peoples, but only by parts, each part separately. What for? For ordering those parts around and putting under their control."