Russia Eyes Stronger Partnership With China

July 7, 2008 - 7:18 PM

Moscow (CNSNews.com) - Russia has renewed its pledge to build its strategic partnership with China, in a thinly veiled attempt to oppose what Moscow views as American unilateralism.

President Vladimir Putin told visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao Monday that the positions of both countries on Iran and North Korea "either coincide or are similar."

In response, Hu, whose three-day state visit to Russia ends Wednesday, hailed what he described as "strategic cooperation between China and Russia, permanent members of the U.N. Security Council." The neighbors, who share a 2,700-mile border, signed a joint statement pledging to cooperate on a variety of issues.

In an apparent rebuff to Washington's Iranian policy, Hu and Putin said the issue of Tehran's nuclear ambitions "should be resolved exclusively through peaceful means and negotiations." (Similarly, the North Korean nuclear weapons issue should be resolved "through a peaceful, diplomatic way.")

"[We] believe that Iran ... has the right to explore peaceful nuclear energy while adhering to all its obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty," the joint China-Russia declaration said.

Russia's Foreign Ministry reiterated in a statement Tuesday that Moscow believed the setting of ultimatums for Iranian compliance was doomed to fail.

At the same time, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told journalists in Moscow that Russia expects Tehran to listen to signals by the international community and respond adequately to the latest Security Council resolution.

Moscow and Beijing also moved to cement their partnership with economic agreements, with companies from the two countries signing some 20 agreements totaling $4.3 billion. Russia and China vowed to boost cooperation in the oil, gas and power sectors.

Moscow has prioritized China's lucrative energy market in its energy policy, and has been building a $12 billion pipeline from East Siberia to the Pacific to pump supplies to China and Japan.

The China-bound pipelines for oil and gas are seen as a political expedient for the Kremlin, designed to send a message to European consumers that if they do not like Russia's sales terms, Russia can simply redirect its energy exports eastwards.

In 2006, Russia's trade with China reached some $30 billion or 15 percent up year-on-year. Moscow views high growth rates in Russia-China commerce as an important indicator of the state of bilateral partnership.

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