Macron also asked President Xi Jinping to press Russia to comply with international rules on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he will deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine’s neighbor Belarus, a move he sees as a dangerous escalation in a bloody year-long conflict.
Xi Jinping said that all countries must respect their commitment not to use nuclear weapons and “must not start a nuclear war” without mentioning Russia. He urged the international community to “refrain from any action that could further aggravate the crisis or even drive it out of control.”
Moscow on Thursday threw cold water on prospects for Chinese mediation in the conflict, claiming it had “no choice” but to continue the offensive.
“Without a doubt, China has very effective and strong potential for mediation,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
“However, the situation with Ukraine is complex. So far there is no possibility of a political solution,” he said.
The EU leaders’ trip to China comes after years of strained relations with Beijing over issues such as alleged abuse of rights in Xinjiang, the suspension of an investment deal and Beijing’s reluctance to blame Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
But Macron, addressing media outlets after arriving on Wednesday, said Europe must resist curtailing trade and diplomatic ties with China and reject what some have described as “inevitable tension” between China and the West.
Von der Leyen’s first visit to China since taking office as European Commission president in 2019 is scheduled for a three-way meeting with Macron and Xi Jinping on Thursday evening.
Macron also met Prime Minister Li Qiang before meeting Xi in an elaborate ceremony outside the Great Hall. The two leaders witnessed a 21-gun salute and walked side by side along the red carpet while a brass band played the national anthem.
In a commentary reported by Chinese state media CCTV, Xi said that as the world undergoes significant historical changes, China and France have the ability and responsibility to transcend “difference” and “restraints.” Xi said China is willing to work with the European Union to resume “exchanges” at all levels.