US president Joe Biden has signalled to the Chinese leader Xi Jinping that there would be "consequences" for China if it provided material support for Russia in its invasion of Ukraine.
Mr Xi is understood to have told Mr Biden that Beijing considered the war in Ukraine as "not something we want to see".
However, in their first direct conversation since Russia invaded its neighbour on February 24th, Mr Xi also criticised the sanctions against Russia imposed by western countries and their allies.
The US is concerned that China may consider providing support for Russia in its war against Ukraine. US officials had earlier warned that Washington would “impose costs” on Beijing if China backed Russia in the war.
The US is understood to be concerned that Russia will turn to China for support, and US officials believe Russia asked China to give it military equipment to that end.
US officials also contend that Russia has asked China for additional economic assistance, to help counteract the battering its economy has taken from broad sanctions western countries and their allies have imposed on foot of the invasion.
According to a readout of the phone call between Mr Biden and Mr Xi released by Chinese state media, the Chinese leader expressed opposition to the broad sanctions the US as well as European and Asian nations have imposed on Russia, warning they could trigger crises in the global economy.
Mr Xi was reported to have referenced a Chinese saying: “Let he who tied the bell on the tiger take it off”, an idiom he has used before to convey that the responsibility for solving a problem should fall on the person who created it.
In the call, Mr Xi did not suggest that China could play a role in ending the war.
The Biden administration said in a statement on Friday that the conversation with the Chinese leader had “focused on Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine”.
"President Biden outlined the views of the United States and our allies and partners on this crisis. President Biden detailed our efforts to prevent and then respond to the invasion, including by imposing costs on Russia," it said.
The White House said Mr Biden had "described the implications and consequences if China provides material support to Russia as it conducts brutal attacks against Ukrainian cities and civilians".
“The president underscored his support for a diplomatic resolution to the crisis.”
The White House said the two leaders also agreed on the importance of maintaining open lines of communication, to manage the competition between the two countries.
The White House also said Mr Biden had reiterated to the Chinese leader that US policy on Taiwan had not changed. Mr Biden had also "emphasised that the United States continues to oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo".
“The two leaders tasked their teams to follow up on today’s conversation in the critical period ahead,” the White House said.