WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz vowed on Friday (Mar 3) to keep imposing costs on Russia for its war in Ukraine, now in its second year, as an EU official said any arms provided by China to Russia would trigger sanctions.
Biden and Scholz met in private in the Oval Office for over an hour, a senior administration official said. Their discussion focused on the importance of continued "global solidarity" with the people of Ukraine, and ongoing efforts to provide security, humanitarian, economic, and political assistance to Ukraine.
Sitting next to Scholz in the Oval Office, Biden thanked the German leader for his "strong and steady leadership" and support for Ukraine. Scholz said it was important to demonstrate that the allies would back Kyiv "as long as it takes and as long as is necessary."
Speaking before the meeting, US officials said discussion points included the state of the war and how to respond if China provided military aid to Russia.
Scholz's brief one-day trip - there were no other meetings on his agenda - was his second to the White House since taking office in December 2021. Biden's national security adviser also met one-on-one with his German counterpart.
Washington has begun consulting with allies about imposing possible sanctions on China should Beijing provide military support to Russia for its war in Ukraine, Reuters reported this week, citing US officials and other sources.
Washington has said in recent weeks that China was considering providing weapons to Russia, although US officials have not provided evidence or said that such supplies have started. Beijing has denied any intention to arm Russia.
"We haven't yet seen China do anything yet, as it relates to lethal weapons," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters before the meeting. "Every step China takes toward Russia makes it harder for China with Europe and other countries around the world."
A senior European Union official told a separate briefing that it would be an "absolute red line" if China provided weapons to Russia, and the EU would respond with sanctions.
Germany has typically taken a much less hawkish stance than the US on China, its top trading partner, but Scholz also sent a strong warning to China on Thursday not to provide weapons to Moscow and appealed to Beijing to pressure Russia to pull back its forces, a speech noted and welcomed by US officials.
Biden hailed Scholz's decision to sharply increase Germany's military spending and diversify energy sources away from Russia, and said the two leaders had worked in lockstep with other allies to support Ukraine. US officials said Ukraine was bracing for a new Russian offensive in coming weeks.
"As NATO allies, we're making the alliance stronger," Biden said, as the United States announced a new military aid package for Ukraine worth US$400 million that includes ammunition and tactical bridges to move tanks and armored vehicles.
The EU official said one major trade irritant - a dispute over US subsidies for green technologies under the US Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) that German and EU officials worry would disadvantage their companies - could soon be addressed.
The official said US and European officials were working on a high-level agreement that would make European minerals eligible for US tax credits, with an announcement possible as early as next Friday when European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visits the White House.
Critics say the IRA was a slap in the face to Europe from its biggest ally at a time when Europe was already struggling with sharply higher energy prices due to the Ukraine war.