Putin likely to visit China in March

Russia 's President Vladimir Putin will likely visit China in March for talks with top leaders on bilateral and international issues, Beijing said Tuesday. During the visit, Putin will help open a cultural festival dubbed "Russian State Year in China ," and hold talks with Chinese leaders on "bilateral relations, as well as the views and opinions of the two countries on international issues," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao.

The visit will be early in the year, likely in March, said Liu at a regular media briefing. Putin and his Chinese counterparts "will also discuss how to maintain world peace and promote world development," he said. Putin has been expected to visit China twice this year, first to unveil the festival, then in June for an international summit.

After decades of rivalry, Moscow and Beijing have developed what they call a strategic partnership since the 1991 Soviet collapse, pledging their adherence to a "multipolar world." In July last year, Putin and China's President Hu Jintao signed a declaration warning other nations against attempts to dominate global affairs and interfere in sovereign nations' domestic matters, a veiled expression of their irritation with U.S. policy and domination of global affairs.

The declaration was followed by a newly assertive stance that Moscow and Beijing took on regional security issues. In August, the two countries held their first-ever joint military maneuvers involving heavy bombers, navy ships and other weaponry.

China has purchased billions of dollars (euros) worth of fighters, missiles, submarines and destroyers after the Soviet collapse, becoming the top customer for struggling Russian defense industries. Beijing is also eager to tap into Russian oil and gas to fuel its booming economy, and has lobbied hard for priority access over Japan to an oil pipeline carrying Siberian crude to Asian markets.

The Russian Cabinet last year endorsed the Japanese-backed route to the Pacific coast, but then decided the destination for its first stage would be near the Chinese border. Putin has said the two countries' annual trade volume is expected to double by 2010 to US$60 billion, reports the AP.


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