China said yesterday it respected "all countries' independent sovereignty and territorial integrity", in an ambiguous statement after Ukraine's Crimea region voted to join its ally Russia.
The crisis in Ukraine has trapped Beijing in a foreign policy corner of wanting to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Moscow yet shuddering at domestic political tumult backed by foreign powers.
"China always respects all countries' independent sovereignty and territorial integrity," foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a regular press briefing, without specifying whose sovereignty he was referring to.
"The Crimea issue should be politically resolved within the framework of law and order," he added.
Hong urged all sides to exercise restraint and for outside actors to work to de-escalate tensions, echoing statements from another foreign ministry spokesman, Qin Gang, on Sunday.