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Putin to Discuss Oil Pipeline with Chinese Officials - 2004-10-14

Russian President Vladimir Putin received a warm welcome in China, where officials are working to convince him to extend an oil pipeline from Siberia to China, which faces rapidly increasing energy needs.

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Beijing Thursday with a contingent of Russian politicians and businessmen to discuss a number of cooperation issues, the most important of which is Russian energy sales to China.

The Chinese have expressed disappointment that Mr. Putin has been noncommittal about extending a pipeline to deliver oil from Siberia to China. Analysts say his visit is an opportunity for the Chinese to work behind the scenes to persuade him.

Patrick Cronin at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington says there will likely be no decision during Mr. Putin's visit.

"I think China is counting on Russia making a private deal," he said. "So, I don't think we're going to see anything like a public statement going to tell us the answer to Putin's decision. We may not see that answer for some time."

Figuring into the negotiation is Mr. Putin's hope that China will support Russia's bid to enter the World Trade Organization.

Trade between the two geographic giants has nearly doubled over the past three years, and is expected to reach $20 billion this year.

Prior to leaving Moscow, Mr. Putin said he would take China's needs into account when building pipelines to Russia's far east, but he said he would proceed on the basis of Russia's own interests. Japan also is lobbying Moscow for a pipeline that goes closer to the Japanese islands.

Russian officials say the agenda for the three-day trip includes the signing of documents on economic, political, and international cooperation. Both sides will also discuss long-standing border disputes, terrorism and the North Korean nuclear crisis.