Chinese premier hits out at Russia for ‘irresponsible’ nuclear threats amid Ukraine conflict

Senior Chinese officials have criticised Russia for making nuclear threats, according to reports.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang reportedly spoke out about the “irresponsibility” of nuclear rhetoric during a summit in Cambodia on Sunday.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior US government official told reporters that Mr Li “spoke rather extensively about China’s policy towards Ukraine”.

Mr Li “put clear emphasis on sovereignty, on the irresponsibility of nuclear threats, the need to ensure that nuclear weapons are not used in the way that some have suggested,” the official said.

The US official said there was “undeniably some discomfort in Beijing about what we’ve seen in terms of reckless rhetoric and activity on the part of Russia”.

"I think it is also undeniable that China is probably both surprised and even a little bit embarrassed by the conduct of Russian military operations," they added.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (Shigeru Nagahara/Getty Images)
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (Shigeru Nagahara/Getty Images)

The comments came ahead of a summit between US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday.

At the summit, the superpower leaders agreed that “a nuclear war should never be fought” and cannot be won, “and underscored their opposition to the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine,” according to the White House.

In September, Russia started ratcheting up the idea that it may use nuclear weapons as it set the stage for the illegal annexation of parts of southern and eastern Ukraine, saying Ukrainian attacks on them would be considered a threat to Russia’s national security, which would be repelled using all available means.

Reports earlier this month claimed that Russian leader Vladimir Putin alarmed Western leaders after referencing the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during a conversation with French president Emmanuel Macron.

Putin reportedly expressed the view that the bombings - which triggered the Japanese surrender and the end of the Second World War - demonstrated that “you don’t need to attack the major cities in order to win”.

Putin has previously warned that if Western forces endangered the ‘integrity’ of Russian territory then “we will certainly use all the means at our disposal”, adding: “This is not a bluff.”