North Korea nuclear crisis

China, Russia proclaim unity ahead of Xi visit

Russia and China say both oppose military intervention in North Korea after nuclear test

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 February, 2013, 12:55am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 February, 2013, 1:42am

Russia and China said on Friday they saw eye-to-eye on all the world’s problems including the Syria conflict, as the Chinese foreign minister held talks in Moscow to prepare a visit by new leader Xi Jinping later this year.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi confirmed after talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov that Communist Party chief and president-in-waiting Xi would visit Russia after he is confirmed as head of state in March to succeed Hu Jintao.

Yang did not directly confirm Chinese reports that Russia would be Xi’s first foreign destination after taking the office of president at a session of the National People’s Congress (NPC) next month, in what would be a hugely symbolic trip.

But he made clear that Xi would be attending the BRICS summit of the world’s top five developing economies in Durban from March 26-27 alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russia and China have stood shoulder-to-shoulder throughout the two-year conflict in Syria, with Beijing joining its fellow permanent UN Security Council member Moscow in vetoing resolutions that would have introduced sanctions against Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

“Russia and China have united positions, and promote these united positions in negotiations, on the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, including the Syrian crisis, Afghanistan, the Iranian nuclear programme and other crises,” Lavrov said at a news conference alongside Yang.

Russia and China have united positions ... on the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, including the Syrian crisis, Afghanistan, the Iranian nuclear programme

“On all these cases, we and our Chinese friends are led by one and the same principle – the necessity to observe international law, respect UN procedures and not allow interference from outside in domestic conflicts and all the more the use of force,” added Lavrov.

Lavrov said that Russia and China had a similarly united position condemning North Korea’s third nuclear test earlier this month as “unacceptable”.

But he said that Moscow and Beijing also agreed that it was important that the test was not used as a pretext to start a new arms race in the region or allow external intervention.

Fully developing ties with its booming neighbour has become a major priority for Putin’s Kremlin at a time of difficult relations with the West and as state gas firm Gazprom and other Russian firms seek new markets for exports.

Despite their tight diplomatic alliance, Russia and China have still failed to finalise a potentially huge gas deal which could eventually see almost 70 billion cubic metres of Russian gas pumped to China annually for the next 30 years.

Gazprom and China National Petroleum Company (CNPC) signed a framework agreement in 2009 but differences remain over the pricing and no final agreement has yet been signed.

But Yang, who held a closed-door meeting with Putin the day earlier, said that the two countries’ bilateral relations were of huge importance for the world as a whole.

“We believe together that Russia-China relations do not just have major importance for our countries but have an influence on ensuring peace and development on the planet as a whole.”

He said that trade volumes between the two countries were over US$80 billion last year and there was “very good reason” to believe they could reach the target of US$100 billion in trade volumes by 2015.

The this year BRICS summit will bring together the leaders of Brazil, China, India, Russia and South Africa for the first time on the African continent, a region where Beijing’s influence has greatly increased over the last years.

According to Chinese media reports, Xi will visit Russia on his way to Durban before the summit begins.