China concerned about 'worsening' Ukraine situation, warns nationals there

BEIJING, Feb 22 (Reuters) - China is concerned about the "worsening" situation in Ukraine, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Tuesday, repeating his call for all parties to show restraint and resolve differences through dialogue.

Accelerating a crisis the West fears could spark a war, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered on Monday the deployment of troops to two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine after recognising them as independent. read more

Russia denies any plan to attack Ukraine, but has threatened unspecified "military-technical" action unless it receives sweeping security guarantees, including a promise that its neighbour will never join NATO.

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The legitimate security concerns of any country should be respected, Wang, who is also a Chinese state councillor, told U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a telephone call, the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement.

"The situation in Ukraine is worsening," Wang told Blinken. "China once again calls on all parties to exercise restraint."

On the call, Blinken underscored the need to preserve Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity amid Russia's

"aggression", said Ned Price, a U.S. State Department spokesperson.

Earlier on Tuesday, China's embassy in Ukraine warned its nationals there not to venture into unstable areas, but stopped short of telling them to leave, as many other nations have advised their own citizens. L1N2UX0EH

"The Chinese embassy in Ukraine has issued a reminder to Chinese citizens and enterprises to strengthen security precautions," said Wang Wenbin, a foreign ministry spokesman.

The embassy will ensure that dietary needs of Chinese citizens in Ukraine are met in a timely way, Wang said at a regular media briefing in response to a query about when China would pull out its citizens.

China is closely following the evolving situation in Ukraine, Wang told the briefing, which drew more reporters than usual.

TAIWAN, NORTH KOREA

The United States should not include Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory, in America's Indo-Pacific strategy, Wang told Blinken.

This month, the United States said it would commit more diplomatic and security resources to the Indo-Pacific, and vowed to work with partners both in and outside the region to maintain peace and stability in the strait dividing Taiwan from China. read more

The attempt to include Taiwan in the strategy to contain China is sending all the "wrong signals", Wang told Blinken on the telephone call, the foreign ministry said in its statement.

Still, China is willing to manage its differences with the United States and stabilise two-way ties, Wang added.

On Monday, China said it had placed Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) and Raytheon Technologies Corp (RTX.N) under sanctions over arms sales to Taiwan, in at least the third time it has announced punishments for the U.S. firms. read more

Taiwan's foreign ministry said it would continue to urge the United States to keep selling the island weapons "in the face of China's military threats and intimidation".

"The U.S. provision to us of defensive weapons helps defend Taiwan's democracy and freedom, as well as ensures national security and peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region," spokesperson Joanne Ou told reporters on Tuesday.

Blinken and Wang also spoke on developments in North Korea.

China calls for direct dialogue between the United States and North Korea, and will, as always, seek to play a constructive role in promoting resolution of the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula, Wang said.

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Reporting by Ryan Woo and Martin Quin Pollard in Beijing; Additional reporting by and Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Clarence Fernandez

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