Would China honor its 2012 ‘umbrella’ deal with nuclear-disarmed Ukraine?

FPI / March 2, 2022


After gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine developed a close relationship as a “strategic partner” with China.

China bought an unfinished aircraft carrier from Ukraine for $20 million in the 1990s and turned it into the People’s Liberation Army’s first aircraft carrier.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych meets with Chinese supreme leader Xi Jinping during a signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in 2013. / Wang Zhao / AP

Ukraine also sold jets and aircraft engines to China and provided design information that was incorporated into Chinese Y-series military transport and surveillance aircraft.

In 2012, China agreed to provide a nuclear deterrent umbrella for Kyiv, which had surrendered its nuclear arsenal.

Given its newly cemented strategic partnership with Russia, will China honor the 2012 deal amid Russian President Vladimir Putin’s order raising the alert status of Russia’s massive nuclear forces in the midst of its invasion of Ukraine?

Former State Department policy official Miles Yu, a former contributing editor for Geostrategy-Direct, first disclosed the China-Ukraine nuclear pact.

Yu pointed out that the nation most likely to threaten the use of nuclear weapons against Ukraine is Russia.

“In the hypothetical scenario of a Russian nuclear threat against Moscow’s former satellite Ukraine, would China keep its pledge to confront Moscow with its nuclear weapons?” Yu stated, according to a Washington Times report.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych signed the agreement on Dec. 5, 2012, promising that China’s nuclear forces would protect Ukraine from nuclear threats. The bilateral treaty described the two states as “strategic partners.”

“China pledges unconditionally not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against the nuclear-free Ukraine and China further pledges to provide Ukraine nuclear security guarantee when Ukraine encounters an invasion involving nuclear weapons or Ukraine is under threat of a nuclear invasion,” a joint statement on the pact said.

Headlines in the Chinese Communist Party-affiliated state media noted the accord, including a People’s Daily headline that stated, “China offers Ukraine nuclear umbrella protection.”

Communist Party censors have since removed the articles, a possible reflection of the growing alliance between Beijing and Moscow.

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