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Xi and Putin condemn US, pledge closer ties as Russia advances in Ukraine

Xi and Putin condemn US, pledge closer ties as Russia advances in Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Chinese Premier Li Qiang shake hands during their meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, 16 May 2024. The Russian president is on an official visit to China on 16 and 17 May. EPA-EFE/SERGEY GUNEEV / SPUTNIK / KREMLIN POOL

BEIJING/MOSCOW, May 16 (Reuters) - Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned what they cast as increasingly aggressive US behaviour on Thursday and pledged to deepen their countries' already close defence and military ties.

In a clear snub to Washington, whose top diplomat flew into China last month to try to persuade Beijing to scale back its relationship with Moscow, Xi signalled Beijing and Moscow saw eye to eye on a range of important issues, including on Ukraine, and would resist Western pressure to downgrade their ties.

“The China-Russia relationship today is hard-earned, and the two sides need to cherish and nurture it,” Xi told Putin.

“China is willing to … jointly achieve the development and rejuvenation of our respective countries, and work together to uphold fairness and justice in the world.”

A joint statement spoke of concerns about what were described as U.S. efforts to violate the strategic nuclear balance, about global U.S. missile defence that threatened Russia and China, and about U.S. plans for high precision non-nuclear weapons.

Putin, on his first overseas trip since being inaugurated this month for a new presidential term, described Moscow and Beijing’s co-operation in world affairs as one of the main stabilising factors in the international arena.

“Together we are defending the principles of justice and a democratic world order reflecting multipolar realities and based on international law,” Putin told Xi.

Putin’s visit comes weeks after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken flew into China to raise concerns about what he said was China’s support for Russia’s military and a day after he said Washington would continue to impose sanctions on Chinese companies supplying Russia’s defence sector.

Blinken’s China trip appears to have been an unsuccessful attempt to undermine a “no limits” partnership proclaimed when Putin visited Beijing in February 2022, just days before he sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine triggering the deadliest land war in Europe since World War Two.

 

SENDING A MESSAGE

By picking China for his first foreign trip since being sworn-in this month for a six-year term that will keep him in power until at least 2030, Putin is sending a message to the world about his priorities and the strength of his personal ties with Xi.

The joint statement was described as deepening the strategic relationship and spoke specifically of how joint cooperation in the defence sectors between the two nations improved regional and global security and of plans to step up military ties.

It also condemned initiatives to seize assets and property of foreign states, a clear reference to Western moves to redirect the profits from frozen Russian assets or the assets themselves to help Ukraine.

Xi said both sides agreed that a political settlement to the Ukraine crisis was the “right direction” and the joint statement said both countries were opposed to a drawn out conflict in Ukraine and its possible transition to an uncontrollable phase.

Putin, who arrived on Thursday for a two-day visit that will include talks on Ukraine, Asia, energy and trade, said he was grateful to China for trying to solve the Ukraine crisis, adding that he would brief Xi on the situation there, where Russian forces are advancing on several fronts.

Describing his initial talks with Xi as “warm and comradely”, he outlined sectors where the two countries were strengthening ties, from nuclear and energy co-operation to food supplies and Chinese car manufacturing in Russia.

Informal chats between the leaders and senior officials of both sides to be held over tea and dinner later on Thursday are expected to be key to the two-day trip.

Putin’s newly appointed defence minister, Andrei Belousov, as well as Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Security Council Secretary Sergei Shoigu and Kremlin foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov will also attend, along with Russia’s most powerful CEOs.

 

CELEBRATION OF 75 YEARS OF TIES

Putin, 71, and Xi, 70, will participate in a gala celebration marking 75 years since the Soviet Union recognised the People’s Republic of China, which Mao Zedong declared in 1949.

The United States casts China as its biggest competitor and Russia as its biggest nation-state threat, while U.S. President Joe Biden says this century will be defined by an existential contest between democracies and autocracies.

Putin and Xi share a broad world view, which casts the West as decadent and declining, just as China challenges U.S. supremacy in everything from quantum computing and synthetic biology to espionage and hard military power.

Putin will also visit the northeastern city of Harbin, which has historic ties to Russia. A mall devoted to Russian-made goods from about 80 Russian manufacturers opened on Thursday, the China Daily said.

China has strengthened trade and military ties with Russia in recent years as the United States and its allies imposed sanctions on both countries, particularly Moscow, for its invasion of Ukraine.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge in Moscow and Bernard Orr in Beijing; additional reporting by Moscow and Beijing newsrooms; Writing by Andrew Osborn and Greg Torode; Editing by Lincoln Feast, Clarence Fernandez and Alex Richardson)

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