Putin's visit set to bolster relations after pipeline row

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 October, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 October, 2004, 12:00am

Russian president is expected to sign a range of agreements during Beijing trip

Russian President Vladimir Putin will arrive in Beijing today to flesh out the strategic partnership between the two countries and sign a range of agreements to boost trade and co-operation.

The visit, part of the regular top-level exchanges between the two countries following President Hu Jintao's visit to Moscow last year, takes place amid a warm glow of friendship following celebrations of 55 years of diplomatic ties.

The two sides will use the opportunity to shore up confidence in bilateral relations adversely affected by a stalemate in an oil pipeline project, Russian fears over its neighbour's economic strength and concerns over the control of Chinese immigrants in sparsely populated Siberia. But the two countries share the same views on international issues, ranging from the fight against terrorism and the Middle East to nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula.

'China and Russia are enjoying a period of good, but not friction-free relations,' said Xia Yishan , senior research fellow at the China Institute of International Studies.

The Beslan school hostage tragedy, which saw the Putin government take harsh criticism from the west for its handling of the crisis, drew the two countries closer together as the mainland showed support, he said.

The focus on bilateral trade and investment follows the discussions Premier Wen Jiabao held with Russian officials last month.

The mainland supports Russia's entry into the World Trade Organisation, which is expected to boost bilateral trade.

Over the past five years, bilateral trade has grown by 20 per cent a year to US$15.7 billion last year. It will top US$20 billion this year.

As an energy deficient country, the mainland provides a steady market for Russian oil, gas and power exports.

Despite tensions over the Siberian pipeline project, energy co-operation is expected on a number of fronts, including a green light for the second phase of expansion of the Tianwan nuclear plant in Lian-yungang , Jiangsu province . The two countries are expected to sign agreements to implement the 2001 Treaty of Friendship and Co-operation, encompassing a wide range of cultural and scientific exchanges.

They will also sign a border pact over the last disputed segment of the Amur River, officially drawing to an end a dispute that nearly erupted into war in 1969.