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China’s Xi to visit Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus

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Xi JinpingChinese President Xi Jinping will visit Russia this week to attend World War II anniversary commemorations, Beijing’s foreign ministry announced Monday as it stressed their joint sacrifices during the global conflict.

Xi will visit Moscow from Friday until Sunday at the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the ministry said.

On his way Xi will stop in Kazakhstan on Thursday for a one day visit, and he will return via Belarus from Sunday to Tuesday, the ministry added.

Xi’s journey to Moscow comes as China highlights its role in the defeat of Japan as the world marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the most destructive war in history.

Beijing itself is planning a huge military parade later this year to commemorate victory over Japanese forces as well as the broader defeat of the Axis powers.

Chinese vice foreign minister Cheng Guoping stressed the importance to both China and Russia of their struggles during the war — while playing down other Allies’ role.

“China and Russia were the main theatres in Asia and Europe during the Second World War and are the main victorious nations of the Second World War,” he told reporters at a briefing, adding that both sides “sacrificed enormously for the victory”.

In Russia, Xi will hold talks with Putin, meet and decorate war veterans and attend Saturday’s parade, Cheng said.

Xi and Putin have developed a strong personal relationship reflecting the increasingly close ties between their countries over the past quarter century, after periods of hostility and distrust during the Cold War, when the Soviet Union saw itself as the leader of the Communist world.

“Such a good working relationship and personal friendship is an important political foundation for the relations of the two countries,” Cheng said, stressing the rapport between the leaders.

The countries, both permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, often take similar stances there on divisive issues such as the conflict in Syria.

“China and Russia are each other’s most important strategic partners,” Cheng said. “Our relationship is special and significant.”

Economically, China covets Russian oil and gas resources, while Russia sees the world’s second-largest economy as a potentially stable and uncritical customer in the face of western sanctions over the annexation of Crimea and the conflict in Ukraine.

Cheng said that the two sides will sign various documents on cooperation during Xi’s visit including on energy, aviation, taxation and finance and investment, though he refrained from outlining specific deals.

– ‘International order’ –

Last week, China announced that the two countries’ navies will conduct their first-ever joint exercises in the Mediterranean this month.

Cheng said that Sino-Russian cooperation has been “good for the international balance of power and for the maintenance of international order after World War II”.

The two countries “are committed to maintain international order”, he added.

Beijing is also looking to develop a “Silk Road Economic Belt” running west through Asia to the markets of Europe.

The concept will be on the agenda during Xi’s visits to the three countries, Cheng said.

The trip to Belarus will be the first by a Chinese president for 14 years, Cheng said, adding that the countries will sign a treaty on friendship and cooperation.

Cheng stressed that Xi’s visit to Kazakhstan will be the first by a foreign leader since the Central Asian country’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, was re-elected for a fifth term last month.

The election, in which he obtained 97.7 percent of the vote, was slammed by Western observers as deeply flawed.


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