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Xi, Putin pledge to deepen strategic ties at Beijing talks


Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, and Russian President Vladimir Putin attend a signing ceremony following their talks in Beijing, China, on May 16, 2024.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, and Russian President Vladimir Putin attend a signing ceremony following their talks in Beijing, China, on May 16, 2024.

Chinese President Xi Jinping praised the relationship between China and Russia and pledged to deepen their partnership as he hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin for talks in Beijing.

Putin, who is on a two-day visit to China, called the relationship a stabilizing factor in the world, and said Russia-China ties are "not directed against anyone," according to the state-run RIA Novosti news agency.

Putin expressed gratitude toward China for what he called Chinese efforts to resolve the situation in Ukraine and said he would inform Xi about the latest developments.

Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, drawing international condemnation and Western sanctions aimed at pushing Putin to withdraw his forces.

China’s state-run Xinhua news agency quoted Putin saying Wednesday that Russia "has never refused to negotiate" a resolution to the conflict, and that Russia seeks a "comprehensive, sustainable and just settlement of this conflict through peaceful means."

In response to the meeting, the United States on Thursday said Beijing can't improve its relations with the West and support Putin at the same time.

"The People's Republic of China can't have its cake and eat it, too," State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters.

"It can't have it both ways and want to have [better] relationships with Europe and other countries while simultaneously continuing to fuel the biggest threat to European security in a long time," Patel added, referring to Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has proposed a peace plan, and Switzerland is set to host peace talks next month, but Russia was not invited to the meetings. Ukraine is seeking a full withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine, including from areas Russia claimed to annex in a move that was rejected by the international community.

Russia has intensified its attacks on the Kharkiv region in northeastern Ukraine in the past week, forcing nearly 8,000 people to leave their homes.

China says it is a neutral party in the Ukraine conflict. But it has economically, politically and rhetorically backed Russia and refuses to condemn Moscow’s offensive.

"I don't think Xi is going to be 100% supportive of Russia's continuing hostilities," Lyle Morris, a senior fellow at Asia Society Policy Institute's Center for China Analysis, told VOA. "I think Putin knows that. So, his hand is getting weaker."

Putin said that China understands the origins of the crisis in Ukraine and has a sincere desire to stabilize the situation, according to Xinhua.

Xi and Putin signed a joint statement on deepening their "comprehensive strategic partnership."

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the United States did not "see anything new" in the joint statement.

"We find it unacceptable that Chinese companies are helping Putin wage this war against Ukraine," she said.

Just weeks before Russian troops invaded Ukraine in 2022, Xi and Putin signed a pledge declaring their "no-limits" bilateral partnership. Beijing has since become Moscow’s most reliable economic and diplomatic partner as Western nations have imposed strict economic sanctions in response to the invasion.

Putin "will be trying to make sure that China supports Russia in any sort of international negotiations or basically finds a way to get around U.S. sanctions," William Pomeranz, director of the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute, said in an interview with VOA.

"China is becoming steadily more important" in Russia and China's relationship, Edward Lucas, senior adviser at the Center for European Policy Analysis, told VOA.

Putin’s "No. 1 issue is help on Ukraine," he said. "He wants diplomatic help. He wants help with breaking sanctions. He would like more weapons."

Lucas said Xi's interest is slightly different. Xi "doesn't want Russia to lose, but he also doesn't want Russia to escalate going up the nuclear ladder," he said.

Putin’s trip to China is his first foreign visit since he was reelected in March for a fifth term in office. The trip is his second visit to China in six months.

He traveled to Beijing in October to attend a forum on China's Belt and Road Initiative, a project launched by Xi a decade ago to build global infrastructure and energy networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa.

Some material in this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters. VOA Mandarin Service reporter John Xie and VOA Ukrainian Service reporter Tatiana Vorozhko also contributed to this report.

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