World leaders will this week attend the Munich Security Conference ahead of the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and with tensions between China and the United States rising over espionage claims.

US Vice President Kamala Harris, senior Chinese diplomat Wang Yi, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron and the NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg will be among those at the three-day annual gathering.

The event, beginning Friday, Feb. 17, comes just days ahead of the February 24 anniversary of Moscow sending its forces into Ukraine, bringing war back to Europe for the first time in decades.

With Ukraine bracing for a fresh offensive from Moscow, leaders are likely to renew their commitment to support Kyiv for as long as it takes to beat back Russian aggression.

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A year after President Vladimir Putin committed a "breach of civilization", the conference is faced with the question of how the "rules-based international order" can be respected, said the event's chairman Christoph Heusgen.

"In future, will there be an order where the strength of law dominates or will there be an order in which the law of the strongest prevails?" he asked at a press conference.

The question of "how to deal with people, political leaders, who do not respect the rule of law" will be on the agenda, he said.

US-China tensions are likely to feature prominently at the gathering in the German city in the state of Bavaria, with ties having nosedived since Washington shot down an alleged Chinese spy balloon in early February.

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Ukrainian forces have in recent weeks escalated aerial attacks on Russian border regions but have also been able to strike targets deep inside Russian territory.

Beijing has insisted it was for civilian purposes and on Monday hit back by accusing the United States of flying balloons over its territory -- a claim swiftly denied by Washington.

Heusgen said he did not think that Wang would use remarks at the event to say "sorry, that was our spy balloon that flew over".

But he added that "I do hope that there will be talks... on the sidelines. I have already pointed out that we have a high-ranking American delegation" attending.

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Relations between the world's two biggest economies have deteriorated in recent years over issues ranging from human rights in Hong Kong to economic policy and the treatment of the Muslim Uyghur minority in Xinjiang.

 

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