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China, Russia denounce use of unilateral sanctions

Publication Date : 21-05-2014


Seeking closer cooperation amid Western pressure, China and Russia have jointly condemned the use of unilateral sanctions and activities aimed at changing the constitutional system of a foreign country.

Both also signed a raft of economic and social deals yesterday in Shanghai during Russian President Vladimir Putin's first visit to China since Chinese President Xi Jinping took power in 2012.

In a joint statement after their meeting, the leaders noted "the need to... counteract interference in domestic affairs of other countries".

Observers say the statement was directed partly at the West, particularly the United States, that has taken economic sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine crisis. China has often accused the US of interfering in its territorial disputes with neighbours.

The sanctions, and the threat of European countries cutting demand for Russian energy supplies, have reportedly made Moscow more keen to seek out new markets and close the long-delayed deal that would see it supplying natural gas to China over a 30-year period from 2019.

But inking of the deal, negotiated for over a decade, remained elusive yesterday due to differences in pricing, though Russian officials said both sides could sign the contract "at any moment".

Putin, who is on a two-day visit, will also attend the fourth summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia, which opened yesterday.

Xi will urge Asian states to do more to enhance regional security in his keynote address of the security forum today.

Sam Tan, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office, is representing Singapore at the summit as China's guest.

Putin was quoted in Chinese media yesterday as saying, ahead of his arrival, that "China is our reliable friend" and expanding cooperation with it is "undoubtedly Russia's diplomatic priority".

Yesterday, the two leaders opened a week-long bilateral naval drill in the East China Sea aimed at a "maritime threat".

Xi said the exercise showed "the unshakable determination and will of China and Russia to together face new threats and challenges to protect regional security and stability", reported the China News Service.

The leaders also agreed to expand cooperation across a wide spectrum, from energy to tourism and infrastructure. Bilateral trade, at US$90 billion last year, is set to more than double to US$200 billion by 2020, said Xinhua news agency. China is Russia's largest trading partner.

But concerns among Western countries are rising that the closer cooperation between the two former socialist allies could form a bulwark against them, prompting commentaries from Chinese media to debunk such notions.

"Closer relations are not directed at any third party but play an important role in supporting each other in safeguarding strategic space and avoiding external pressure," said the nationalistic Global Times tabloid.

Putin said at his meeting with Xi that "Russian-Chinese interaction has become an important factor for international stability".

Sino-Russian expert Zhao Huasheng told The Straits Times that the recent improvement in Sino-Russian ties is the result of political trust and cooperation over the decades since 1996 when both set up a strategic partnership.

Professor Zhao of Fudan University in Shanghai pointed out that Russia and China have, through their veto vote at the United Nations Security Council opposing West-led wars in states like Iraq, tried to promote peace and security.

"Foreign countries would have cause to worry only if Russia and China, being the largest countries in Eurasia, could not get along," he added.

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