Biden, Scholz to focus on Ukraine war, touch on China concerns in Friday meeting

G7 leaders summit

By Andrea Shalal and Eric Beech

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will focus their discussions on Friday mainly on the war in Ukraine, but could also touch on concerns that China may provide lethal aid to Russia, a senior administration official said.

The two leaders are slated to meet for an hour, including a significant one-on-one component, the official said on Thursday.

"The overarching purpose of this meeting was a chance for the two leaders to be able to coordinate specifically on Ukraine," the official said. "But I think it certainly is possible within the context of a conversation on Ukraine that the China aspect would come up."

The U.S. had not seen evidence that China had provided lethal aid to Russia thus far, but was tracking the situation closely, the official said.

Friday's working-level meeting would give Biden and Scholz a chance to "exchange notes" on their respective, recent meetings with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and their assessment of the war, now in its second year, the official said.

Scholz, who last visited the White House just before Russia invade Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, on Thursday urged China not to send weapons to help Russia's war in Ukraine and appealed to Beijing to exert pressure on Moscow to pull back its forces.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken this week said if China provides lethal aid to Moscow for the conflict it will be a serious problem Beijing in its relationship with countries around the world.

China has denied any intention to arm Russia while warning Western nations that have supplying weapons to Ukraine that such support would not bring peace, but would add "fuel to the fire".

Washington has been sounding out close allies about the possibility of imposing new sanctions on China if Beijing provides military support to Russia for its war in Ukraine, Reuters reported on Wednesday, citing four U.S. officials.

The U.S. officials said Washington had already taken action against third-party actors who were supporting Russia's war against Ukraine and would continue to do so, measures that were expressly endorsed in a recent Group of Seven statement.

"So, very much something that we're engaging on diplomatically with our partners and something that we're already actively taking action on and continuing to discuss," the official said, declining to name any specific countries.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal and Eric Beech; Editing by Lincoln Feast.; Editing by Chris Reese)