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China's Hu heads To Russia As World Powers Cement Ties

Chinese President Hu Jintao and Russian President Vladimir Putin on an earlier trip to Moscow. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Mar 26, 2007
Chinese President Hu Jintao headed to Russia on Monday for a three-day trip that will see the two nations sign trade deals worth up to four billion dollars, with energy expected to be a key focus.

The visit, during which Hu will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, will also be watched closely to see how the two world powers address the global nuclear stand-offs involving Iran and North Korea.

Hu told reporters ahead of his trip, his third to Russia since becoming president, that it would further cement economic and diplomatic relations that have warmed significantly since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

"I believe that, through joint efforts of both sides, the visit will achieve substantial fruits, and inject new impetus into the growth of China-Russian ties," China's state-run Xinhua news agency quoted Hu as saying.

Hu will oversee the signing of trade deals worth up to four billion dollars, Chinese state press reported on Monday.

Trade reached a record 33.4 billion dollars in 2006, up nearly 15 percent from 2005, according to Chinese figures, and the two sides are looking for that figure to reach 60-80 billion dollars by 2010.

To coincide with Hu's visit, China will hold in Moscow its biggest-ever trade exhibition in a foreign country, with nearly 200 big Chinese companies to showcase their products.

The industries on display will range from state-of-the-art sectors such as aerospace to historic ones, including tea and silk, the China Daily reported.

Energy will also inevitably come into the spotlight as China continues its global quest to secure more resources for its fast-modernising population of over 1.3 billion people.

Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Li Hui told a briefing last week that Hu and Putin would discuss long-delayed plans for a Siberian oil pipeline.

Resource-rich Russia in 2003 opted against plans for a single pipeline straight to China, choosing instead to skirt its neighbour with a line to Russia's Pacific coast.

Since then, the talk has been of building a branch off that main route to China's oil capital Daqing.

The prospect of closer Sino-Russian energy ties has caused some supply concerns in the West, but Li sought to ease those fears, while offering no specifics on the upcoming talks about the Siberian pipeline.

"Energy cooperation between China and Russia... will not undermine the interests of other countries or impact (on) the world energy landscape," he said.

Hu's trip also coincides with rising tensions in the multinational campaign to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions.

The Iranian government said Sunday it would restrict its cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog in retaliation for the Security Council sanctions over its disputed atomic programme.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also vowed that no Security Council resolution could ever halt the Islamic republic's "march" toward the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

Russia and China, which have energy interests in Iran, are key players in the stand-off as they are both permanent Security Council members and have sought to blunt US pressure on Tehran over its nuclear programmes.

The two nations are also similarly important in the international drive to end North Korea's nuclear drive. Russia and China are part of the six-nation forum aimed at convincing the North to give up its atomic programme.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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