By Nike Ching
China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, is expected to visit Washington this month on a highly anticipated trip that comes as U.S. officials urge Beijing to help prevent fighting in the Middle East from spreading.
China’s leader Xi Jinping broke nearly two weeks of silence on events in Israel on Thursday, saying he supports an immediate cease-fire and establishing “an independent state of Palestine” as the best way out of the conflict.
Beijing’s position has drawn the ire of Israeli officials, who insist Tel Aviv has a right to defend itself following the surprise terrorist attack by Hamas on October 7 that killed more than 1,400 Israelis, the vast majority of whom were civilians.
U.S. officials and senators also have told China that its plan is also a nonstarter for Hamas, because the group does not accept a two-state solution, nor Israel’s right to exist.
For now, Washington has indicated it wants Beijing to help keep the war from spreading to other countries by using its lines of communication with countries in the Middle East to prevent other state or nonstate actors such as Iran from attacking Israel and widening the war with Hamas.
“If China could do something to prevent the conflict from widening, that is certainly something that we would welcome. But I don’t think that goal of ours is consistent with the proposal” by China for a cease-fire, State department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters Thursday.
Like Russia, China does not classify Hamas as a terrorist group but regards it as a legitimate representative of the Palestinians in Gaza.
Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi’s expected visit to Washington before the end of the month is seen as a step toward further high-level meetings between the United States and China.
U.S. President Joe Biden has said he is likely to meet with Xi next month on the margins of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco.