German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says there would be "consequences" if China sent weapons to Russia for Moscow's war in Ukraine, but he is fairly optimistic that Beijing will refrain from doing so.
Scholz's comments came in an interview with CNN that aired on Sunday, two days after he met US President Joe Biden in Washington.
US officials have warned recently that China could step off the sidelines and begin providing arms and ammunition to Moscow. Ahead of his trip, Scholz had urged Beijing to refrain from sending weapons and instead use its influence to press Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukraine.
Asked by CNN if he could imagine sanctioning China if it did aid Russia, Scholz replied: "I think it would have consequences, but we are now in a stage where we are making clear that this should not happen, and I am relatively optimistic that we will be successful with our request in this case, but we will have to look at (it) and we have to be very, very cautious."
He did not elaborate on the nature of the consequences. Germany has Europe's biggest economy and China has been its single biggest trading partner in recent years.
Back in Germany on Sunday, Scholz was asked after his Cabinet met with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen whether he had received concrete evidence from the US that China was considering weapons deliveries and whether he would back sanctions against Beijing if it helped arm Russia.
"We all agree that there must be no weapons deliveries and the Chinese government has stated that it would not deliver any," the chancellor replied. "That is what we are demanding and we are watching it."
He did not address the sanctions question.
Von der Leyen said that "we have no evidence for this so far, but we must observe it every day".
She said that whether the European Union would sanction China for giving Russia military aid "is a hypothetical question that can only be answered if it were to become reality and fact".