China has blamed Nato expansions for the ongoing tensions between Russia and Ukraine , which have the world on edge over fears of an imminent escalation to war. Zhang Jun, China’s permanent representative to the United Nations, backed Russia’s position on Thursday, citing legitimate concerns over the enlargement of the 30-nation North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato). “Everything happens for a reason. Nato enlargement is an issue that cannot be overlooked when dealing with the current tensions related to Ukraine,” Zhang told a Security Council meeting on the situation in the Eastern European nation. “Nato’s continuous expansion in the wake of the Cold War runs counter to the trend of our times, that is to maintain common security,” he said, according to a readout from the Chinese mission. “One country’s security cannot be at the expense of the security of others. By the same token, regional security should not rely on muscling up or even expanding military blocs.” This comes amid massive Russian troop build-ups near the Ukrainian border for weeks as Moscow demands sweeping security assurances from Nato, including stopping its eastward expansion and denying membership to Kyiv. Repeated talks to defuse tensions have failed, with the US continuing to warn of imminent invasion, and rejecting Russian claims of having moved some troops back. Addressing the UN Security Council, Zhang said: “China supports all efforts conducive to easing the tensions, and notes the recent diplomatic engagement between Russia and France, Germany and other European countries at the leaders’ level. “A negotiated, balanced, effective and sustainable European security mechanism will serve as a solid foundation for lasting peace and stability across Europe. We trust that European countries will take decisions with strategic autonomy in line with their own interests,” he added, referring to the European aim of being viewed as operating independently across all fronts, including in defence and diplomacy. He also repeated the stance of the Chinese foreign ministry, expressed on multiple occasions, that all parties involved should return to the 2015 Minsk II agreement , which aimed to end the separatist war by Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine. Zhang’s speech echoed the latest call from Chinese President Xi Jinping for a diplomatic resolution to the Ukraine crisis, made during talks over the phone with French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday. When Xi met Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Beijing Winter Olympics two weeks ago, they voiced joint opposition to further Nato expansion. However, it remains unclear whether China would back a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Moscow denies having any such plans. Ukraine, a former Soviet state, wishes to join the US-led Nato defence alliance as a bulwark against any potential Russian aggression, especially after Moscow annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014. At its Bucharest summit in 2008, the bloc had promised Ukraine that it would eventually be given a chance to join. This has been a key concern for Russia in the stand-off with the US and its allies over Ukraine, with Moscow calling for security guarantees including a ban on Nato’s further expansion and a firm pledge that Ukraine would never be a member. During ongoing diplomatic efforts to de-escalate tensions at the Ukraine-Russia border, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said there were currently no plans to admit Ukraine to Western alliances such as Nato. Meanwhile, the US has demanded Russia pull back some 130,000 troops it says have been massed near the border with Ukraine. Washington said it was hoping for a peaceful resolution, but stood ready to impose harsh economic sanctions if Russia invaded.