MOSCOW, March 24 (RIA Novosti) – Newly-elected Chinese President Xi Jinping has affirmed that China and Russia will continue to strengthen and develop their military, political and strategic relations, including cooperation between their armed forces.
Xi Jinping, who is on a three-day visit to Russia – his first foreign visit since becoming Chinese president last week, met on Saturday with the Russian military leadership in the Russian Armed Forces' Operational Command Center.
He is the first foreign leader ever to be allowed inside the “heart” of the Russian military establishment.
“My visit to the Russian Defense Ministry is intended to confirm that military, political and strategic relations between the two countries will strengthen as will cooperation between the Armed Forces of China and Russia,” the Chinese president told Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
Shoigu is scheduled to hold talks with his Chinese counterpart Chang Wanquan on Sunday.
Up to now, much of the closeness binding China and Russia has been forged in the halls of the United Nations, where both are permanent Security Council members and, since 2005, have often presented a united front against the West and its allies, most notably Japan.
Russia and China have stood together on the 2011 Libyan conflict and the ongoing civil war in Syria, Russia's old ally, and have jointly opposed US plans to develop a missile shield beyond US borders (an issue that became more pressing for Beijing last week after Washington announced it would deploy interceptors in Alaska instead of Poland).
Russia and China have held a number of joint military exercises since 2005 within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which also includes the Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Since the 1990s, China has been a major buyer of Russian weaponry, with trade peaking in 2005, when China’s purchases from Russia reached almost $4 billion. They have fluctuated since then, dipping to $800 million in 2009 and rebounding to $2.1 billion last year, according to Rosoboronexport, Russia's state-owned arms export monopoly.