Blinken says Russia could invade Ukraine during Olympics | National policy

By ROD McGUIRK – Associated Press

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Russia could invade Ukraine during the Beijing Winter Olympics, so Americans would have to leave the Eastern European country immediately, the secretary of state said Friday. American Antony Blinken.

Blinken did not detail the reasons for the State Department’s latest decision. security alert calling on all US citizens to leave Ukraine.

“Put simply, we continue to see very worrying signs of Russian escalation, including the arrival of new forces on the Ukrainian border,” Blinken said in Melbourne, Australia.

“We are in a window where an invasion could start at any time and, to be clear, that includes during the Olympics,” Blinken added. The Olympics are due to end on February 20.

Russia has gathered more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine. He says he has no intention of invading but wants the West to keep Ukraine and other former Soviet countries out of NATO.

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The threat of war in Ukraine and the strengthening of the alliance between Russia and China were on the agenda of a meeting in Canberra on Friday between Blinken and his Indian, Japanese and Australian counterparts.

The four nations form the “Quad”, a bloc of Indo-Pacific democracies created to counter China’s growing regional influence.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, who chaired the meeting, said the alliance between Moscow and Beijing was “worrying because it does not represent…a world order that fits with…ambitions freedom, openness, sovereignty and protection of territorial integrity.”

On the question of the alliance, Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, whose government is one of Russia’s biggest customers for military hardware, stressed that the Quad partnership was about shared ambitions and “not against someone”.

Asked by a reporter if Russia had behaved appropriately towards Ukraine, Jaishankar replied that the Quad meeting was focused on the Indo-Pacific region, not Europe.

Blinken said earlier that a conflict with China in the Indo-Pacific was not inevitable.

“We share concerns that in recent years China has acted more aggressively at home and more aggressively in the region and even potentially beyond,” Blinken said.

Quad partners are united by an “affirmative vision of what the future may bring” and a “commitment to defending the rules-based system that we have spent tremendous time and effort building,” it said. -he adds.

Blinken’s trip is designed to bolster America’s interests in Asia and its intent to push back against growing Chinese assertiveness in the region. He will also visit Fiji and discuss pressing North Korea concerns with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts in Hawaii.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian dismissed Quad’s concerns about Beijing’s growing influence among Pacific island nations.

China’s support for Pacific island countries is “open, transparent and inclusive, without targeting any third parties”, Zhao said, apparently referring to the United States and its allies.

“We hope that all countries will take concrete steps to help Pacific island countries meet their challenges and do more to contribute to regional peace, stability and development,” he said during the meeting. a daily press briefing.

Australia has faced trade retaliation in recent years for angering Beijing over actions that include banning covert foreign interference in domestic politics, banning Chinese tech giant Huawei from major infrastructure projects and the call for an independent investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was reassured by the shared commitment against coercion after meetings with Blinken, Jaishankar and Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi.

Earlier on Friday, Blinken and Hayashi held a meeting in which they expressed “deep concern” about the Russian military buildup on the Ukrainian border, a Japanese Foreign Ministry official said under cover of a statement. anonymity, citing protocol.

The leaders also shared their “serious concern” about North Korea’s escalating nuclear and missile development, the official said.

This story corrects that the meeting was in Melbourne, not Canberra.

Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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