China and the Kerch Strait

The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine following Sunday’s incident in the Kerch Strait. According to the Ukrainian Navy, Russian forces fired upon its vessels, injuring at least three sailors. Russian forces then reportedly captured three Ukrainian vessels along with 23 crew members. Moscow claims the vessels had entered Russian waters, failed to follow laid down protocols and engaged in “provocative” actions.

During Monday’s meeting in New York, Nikki Haley, the US’s UN representative, described the incident as a case of “reckless Russian escalation” and “aggression.” European Council President Donald Tusk has assured that the EU stands united behind Ukraine. In contrast, China’s deputy permanent representative to the UN Wu Haitao called for “restraint” and emphasized the Chinese approach of “objectivity and impartiality” in relation to Russia-Ukraine tensions. Wu further added that “China respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries including Ukraine.” Wu’s remarks underscore the delicate balance that Beijing is seeking to strike in terms of deepening its ties with Russia while distancing itself from Putin’s foreign policy adventurism. In this context, Sunday’s incident presents Beijing with a set of pitfalls and opportunities.

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