China has distanced itself from the remarks of one of its envoys who questioned the sovereignty of Ukraine and other former Soviet countries.
Paris ambassador Lu Shaye’s comments last week caused widespread outrage, leading to calls to Beijing to clarify.
On Monday, China’s foreign ministry said it respected the independence of all post-Soviet republics.
China is a major ally of Russia and has not condemned President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine last year.
It sees itself as a major player in attempts to bring peace to Ukraine, but has become an increasingly important trading partner for Russia amid Western sanctions prompted by the invasion, and many in the West doubt its impartiality on the issue.
In an interview for the French LCI network last week, Ambassador Lu was asked China’s view of the status of Crimea which Russia annexed in 2014.
The interviewer argued that under international law the region was part of Ukraine.
Mr Lu responded by suggesting that the issue was not clear cut, and that countries such as Ukraine could not rely on international law to defend their sovereignty.
“Even these former Soviet countries don’t have an effective status under international law because there is no international agreement under international law to concretise their status as sovereign countries,” he said.
President Putin has frequently challenged Ukrainian independence. In a speech days before the start of Russia’s invasion last year, he denied Ukraine had any “real statehood” and said the country was an integral part of Russia’s history and culture.
On Monday Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning rejected Mr Lu’s position, saying Beijing respected the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all countries and upheld the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter. (BBC)