27 May 200314:20



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Chinese President Hu Jintao is beginning his first foreign tour as head of the Chinese state, and the first leg of his tour will be Russia, where he is going on a state visit. What is so special about this visit, what will it bring for the future of Russian-Chinese relations?

The first thing I would like to note is that the stay of the Chinese president in Russia will be the longest during his first world tour in his new capacity. On May 26-28, in Moscow, there will be a regular meeting held at the top level between Vladimir Putin and Hu Jintao, who will also have talks with other Russian top officials. Then, on May 28-29, also in Moscow, the Chinese head of state will attend a summit of the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation, and on May 30-31 he will take part in the events dedicated to the 300th anniversary of St Petersburg.

We attach a lot of importance to statements by Chinese President Hu Jintao, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and other high-ranking Chinese officials about the priority attention they are going to give to the Russian aspect. President Putin and Hu Jintao have already established a good personal and business rapport, which will no doubt go a long way towards promoting the Russian-Chinese strategic partnership in all fields and closer co-ordination of our countries' efforts on the world arena.

The first time Hu Jintao visited Russia was on October 27-28, 2001. It was his working visit. Also then, in Moscow, he had meaningful meetings with Vladimir Putin and Russia's Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov. On December 2, 2002, as part of his official visit to China, President Putin met and had a lengthy discussion (more than an hour and a half) with the newly elected Secretary-General of the Chinese Communist Party, Hu Jintao. Since then the two leaders have more than once talked with each other over the telephone and exchanged messages.

As regards prospects for bilateral relations, I would like to make the following point. The entire history of relations between our countries since the formation of the new China can be characterised as a search for an optimum model of co-existence of the two neighbouring powers. Over the past half-century we have covered a far from simple path in our relations. It has taken great political wisdom and will of the leaders of the two countries to find, in a quick succession of global change, a formula for co-operation which could take optimum account of the national interests of both countries now and in the future. In the mid-90s such a model became discernible. Jiang Zemin, receiving Russia's Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov on February this year in Beijing, described as "two gems" the decisions to transform relations into a strategic partnership (1996) and to sign the "basic" political treaty (2001).

Moscow and Beijing saw that in the 21st century they must be strategic partners, in every way developing political dialogue, deepening mutual understanding and mutual trust, building up co-operation, and together solving practical problems of bilateral ties.

Co-ordination of efforts between our countries on the world arena is based on the coincidence or closeness of their approaches to a wide range of conceptual world problems. One of the most important among them is the task to form a new democratic and just world order. The consolidating role which Russia and China may play stems from the vital and highly pragmatic requirements of mankind, which has been confronted in the modern era with entirely new threats and challenges in scale and manifestation. And in this process our countries give priority to the United Nations. Topics dealing with building a balanced and equal world are increasingly being reflected in the agenda of such a representative international forum as the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation.

Russian and Chinese diplomats are closely co-operating on the Korean issue, showing a high degree of activity on this question. After all, we and our Chinese friends are Korea's immediate neighbours, and what is taking place there concerns us very closely. At a high political level we are carrying out regular consultations and co-ordinating our approaches.

In the course of such discussions we have been able to see that in all their basic elements the approaches of Moscow and Beijing coincide practically fully. We are for there to be no nuclear weapons on the peninsula, for North Korea to return to the non-proliferation regime and for Pyongyang's co-operation with the IAEA, including on adequate inspections. On the other hand, account must necessarily be taken of Chinese security concerns. Existing questions should be solved peacefully, through negotiations.

Let's take another acute issue - the issue of Iraq. Russia and China are for the central role in the post-war restoration of Iraq to be played by the UN.

I think the leaders of Russia and China during their meetings in Moscow will examine a wide range of international and regional problems, and set out new tasks requiring joint decision-making.

Over the past two years Russian-Chinese trade and economic co-operation has made considerable progress. For the fourth straight year mutual trade has been maintaining a high momentum. In 2002, trade between the two countries reached almost 12 billion dollars. And in the first four months of this year, it advanced by more than 30 per cent, reaching 4.51 billion dollars. In that way, our trade and economic co-operation has acquired a steady upward trend.

I am sure that the first state visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao to Russia, beginning in a few days' time, will pass on a high level and help to achieve important accords and set new goals. In the course of the Moscow top-level meeting, it is planned to sign a number of documents. I do not doubt that talks between Vladimir Putin and Hu Jintao will be a major event of 2003, and draw the attention of the entire international community.

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