The United States is inquiring with close allies about the possibility of slapping more sanctions on China if Beijing helps Russia with military backing for its war in Ukraine.
It is unknown what particular sanctions Washington will recommend. The contacts were not previously known, according to four US officials and other sources cited by Reuters.
The purpose of these consultations, which are still in their infancy, is to garner support from a variety of nations, particularly those in the rich Group of Seven (G7), in order to organize support for any potential limits.
The early moves taken by the Biden administration to counter China's assistance for Russia included informal outreach at the staff and diplomatic levels, including the Treasury Department, according to persons with knowledge of the situation.
They reported that authorities were preparing the basis for prospective action against Beijing with the core group of countries that were most supportive of sanctions placed on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine a year ago.
In recent weeks, Washington and its allies have asserted that China is contemplating sending weaponry to Russia, a claim Beijing denies. Aides to US President Joe Biden have not made any evidence public.
In discussions between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, as well as during a meeting between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi on the sidelines of a global security summit in Munich on Feb. 18, they have also expressly warned Beijing against doing so.
One official from a country consulted by the United States stated that there is scant evidence to support the assertions that China is contemplating providing Russia with military aid. Yet, according to a US official, the intelligence is being sent to allies in detail.
Friday's White House meeting between Vice President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is anticipated to include discussion of China's participation in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Foreign ministers from dozens of nations, including Russia, China, and the United States, will meet in New Delhi on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss the battle.
The West reacted with skepticism last week to China's 12-point proposal urging for a complete ceasefire.
The initial outreach by Washington on penalties has not yet resulted in a broad consensus on specific actions, according to sources.
The United States' difficulty in imposing sanctions on China, the world's second-largest economy, is exacerbated by China's integration with the main economies of Europe and Asia, which complicates the negotiations. All US allies, from Germany to South Korea, are hesitant to offend China.