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Scholz wants to discuss ‘just peace’ in Ukraine

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BEIJING—German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday said he would discuss a “just peace” in Ukraine with Chinese President Xi Jinping, as the two leaders met in Beijing.

“My meeting with President Xi will also focus on how we can contribute more to a just peace in Ukraine,” Scholz said in a post on social media platform X, adding there had been “an intensive exchange between our governments since my last visit to China”.

Earlier, Chinese state media reported Scholz had met Xi on the last day of a three-day trip to Berlin’s biggest trading partner, adding the pair would hold an informal discussion over tea at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in the capital.

In related developments, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged allies to show the same “unity” towards Ukraine as Israel, which said it repelled an Iranian attack over the weekend with Western support.

Ukraine has in recent months grown increasingly frustrated at delays in Western aid, including air defenses it says are urgently needed to repel deadly Russian attacks.

In a post on Telegram, Zelensky thanked allies who had responded to Ukraine’s call for more air defences but said: “The intensity of Russian attacks requires greater unity”.

In Washington, US House Speaker Mike Johnson said Monday (Tuesday in Manila) his Republican-controlled chamber would vote this week on separate aid bills for Ukraine and Israel, after stalling for months over pressure from his party’s right-wing.

The US Senate passed a $95 billion package in February that included massive new funds to help Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s invasion, as well as new support for Israel and Taiwan.

Johnson, leading a razor-thin Republican majority in the House, has refused to allow a vote in his chamber on the so-called security supplemental, despite urgent pleas from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and other American allies.

Russia has regrouped amid the deadlock and gone on the offensive, with Ukraine suffering its first territorial setbacks in months after rationing ammunition due to shortages.

“We won’t be voting on the Senate supplemental in its current form,” Johnson told reporters Monday evening, “but we will vote on each of these measures separately in four different pieces.”

He said that votes on the separate bills could occur by Friday evening, but that members would be allowed to offer amendments, which would likely drag out the process.

Johnson had previously opposed a standalone vote on Ukraine aid, demanding first that Democratic President Joe Biden crack down on illegal border crossings.

His sudden about-face comes after an unprecedented attack by Iran targeting Israel over the weekend, after which he pledged a prompt show of US support.

“There are precipitating events around the globe that we’re all watching very carefully, and we know that the world is watching us to see how we react,” he said Monday.

Earlier in the day, the White House ruled out any bill that only contained aid for Israel.

“We will not accept a standalone. A standalone would not help Israel and Ukraine,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told a briefing.

One of the four bills to be voted on this week, according to US media reports, would be a package of provisions including a possible US ban on TikTok as well as allowing the sale of assets seized from Russians after the Ukraine invasion.

Johnson is walking a knife-edge on aid for Ukraine, as Donald Trump and far-right lawmakers in the House of Representatives have grown skeptical of pouring billions of dollars into Kyiv’s fight against Russia’s invading forces.

Ukraine has in recent months grown increasingly frustrated at delays in Western aid, including air defenses it says are urgently needed to repel Russian attacks.

Johnson, who rose from obscurity to take the gavel in October, continues to face a bid to oust him by far-right firebrand Marjorie Taylor Greene, who opposes any compromise with Democrats.

After a meeting of Republicans on Monday in which Johnson presented his legislative plan, Greene told reporters she was “firmly against the plan as it stands right now.”

When asked if she was angered enough to pull the trigger on a procedural motion to force a vote on removing Johnson from his post, she said she was still undecided.

However, she said: “He’s definitely not going to be speaker next Congress if we’re lucky enough to have the majority.”

Johnson, for his part, said: “I don’t spend my time worrying about motions to vacate.”

He won Trump’s much-valued backing on Friday after traveling to meet with the Republican presidential candidate in Florida.

“It’s not an easy situation for any speaker,” Trump said at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago estate, adding he thinks Johnson is doing “a very good job.”

Scholz’s whistlestop tour has taken him to the southwestern megacity of Chongqing, economic powerhouse Shanghai and the capital Beijing as he aims to shore up trade ties.

The chancellor has been accompanied by a large delegation of ministers and business executives on the Sunday-Tuesday trip — his second to China since taking office.

He is also expected to meet with Premier Li Qiang on Tuesday and to sit down with a German-Chinese economic committee and give a press conference.

Scholz’s visit comes as many of Germany’s Western allies confront China on a range of trade issues.

A slew of probes into state aid for Chinese solar panels, electric cars and wind turbines are ongoing in Brussels.

The United States, meanwhile, is investigating national security risks posed by Chinese technology in cars.

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