Xi and Putin condemn US, pledge closer ties

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin have condemned what they cast as increasingly aggressive US behaviour and pledged to deepen their countries' already close defence and military ties.

In a clear snub to Washington, whose top diplomat flew into China in April 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 on Thursday.

"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 US efforts to violate the strategic nuclear balance, about global US missile defence that threatened Russia and China, and about US 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.

Xi Jinping and Valdimir Putin review the honour guard in Beijing
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping are holding talks in Beijing.

Putin's visit comes weeks after US 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 II.

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 co-operation 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.

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