China's top foreign policy official is heading to Russia for security talks after two days of meetings with US President Joe Biden's national security adviser over the weekend in Malta.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who simultaneously holds the ruling Communist Party's top foreign policy post, will be in Russia from Monday to Thursday for a round of China-Russia strategic security consultations, the Foreign Ministry said in a brief statement.
The US and China are at odds over Russia's invasion of Ukraine. China has refrained from taking sides in the war, saying that while a country's territory must be respected, the West needs to consider Russia's security concerns about NATO expansion.
It has accused the US of prolonging the fighting by providing arms to Ukraine, weaponry that the US says is needed to defend against Russian aggression.
China and Russia have grown closer in recent years as relations with the West have deteriorated for both. China is looking for support as it seeks to reshape the US-led international order into one that is more accommodating to its approach.
Last month, it helped engineer an expansion of the BRICS partnership, which invited six more countries to join what has been a five-nation bloc that includes China and Russia.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning called Wang's visit to Russia a routine one to hold in-depth talks on major strategic security interests.
Wang discussed the situation in Ukraine in his weekend meetings with US national security adviser Jake Sullivan. Both sides described the talks as candid, substantive and constructive as they try to stabilize their rocky relationship and manage differences over security, trade, technology and human rights. Specifics of their talks were not released.
Wang stepped down as foreign minister at the end of last year, taking on the more senior position of Communist Party foreign affairs chief, but was called back as foreign minister in July after his successor, Qin Gang, disappeared from public view.
It's unclear what happened to Qin, but he may have fallen out of favour with the leadership.
More recently, China's defense minister, Li Shangfu, also has not been seen in about three weeks, sparking speculation about his fate. It's unusual for two sitting Cabinet members to disappear from sight, though it doesn't appear to signal any obvious change in defense or foreign policy.
The Chinese government has said nothing about Li's disappearance. Asked about it on Monday, Mao, the foreign ministry spokesperson, said she was not aware of the situation.