The U.S. envoy to the United Nations said on Thursday she hopes China will urge Russia to "do the right thing" on Ukraine, prompting her Chinese counterpart to quickly respond with a call for diplomacy and an end to "hyping up the tension."
China was the only country to vote no with Russia last week in a failed bid to stop the 15-member UN Security Council from meeting, at the request of the United States, on Russia's troop build-up on Ukraine's borders with Russia and Belarus.
When Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea region in 2014, China abstained from a vote in which Russia vetoed a U.S.-drafted Security Council resolution opposing a referendum on the status of Crimea and urging countries not to recognize it.
Western diplomats hope to convince Beijing to not side again with Russia – if Moscow invades Ukraine – by focusing on sovereignty and territorial integrity and not portraying the Ukraine situation as tensions among global powers.
"We would hope that the Chinese would play a role in encouraging the Russians to do the right thing," the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told CNN on Thursday.
"The Chinese have expressed a strong concern in the Security Council for protecting the integrity of borders and sovereignty of states. This is exactly what the Russians are doing – they are threatening the integrity of a border," she said.
Thomas-Greenfield said she looked forward to encouraging her Chinese counterpart at the United Nations, Ambassador Zhang Jun, to focus on that message. Her remarks prompted a quick response from Zhang on Twitter.
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"Our message is consistent and clear: Resolve any differences through diplomacy. Stop hyping up the tension. Russia's legitimate security concerns should be seriously addressed," Zhang posted.