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Xi meets 'best and bosom friend' Putin amid raging US trade war

CNN logo CNN 6/5/2019 By Ben Westcott, CNN

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Video by Reuters

Destroying arms control treaties is "unacceptable," Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday during a bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Kremlin.

During the visit, which was aimed at cementing economic ties between the two countries amid China's heated trade war with the United States, Putin thanked Xi for helping their countries achieve a trade turnover of more than $100 billion a year. He added that Russian-Chinese relations have reached an "unprecedented level."

"In the joint agreement that we signed on strengthening global strategic stability in the modern era we empathized the principled stance of Russia and China on the unacceptability of jeopardizing the existing system of agreements on arms control, disarmament and nonproliferation," Putin said.

On many international and regional issues Russia's geopolitical views align with those of China, he added.

Xi is expected to spend three days in Russia at the invitation of Putin, which coincides with the annual St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, and will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Both leaders agreed that there is no alternative to a peaceful solution on the Korean Peninsula. They discussed joint efforts to resolve the crisis in Syria and attempts to stabilize the situation in Venezuela, Putin said.

Xi called the Russian President a "a friend," and reiterated Putin's view, saying that "our cooperation is based on mutual trust."

"The world is changing at an unprecedented level," Xi said. He added that cooperation between Russia and China will remain strong for years to come.

According to Russian state media TASS, around 30 agreements were signed during Xi's visit which included policies on security, trade and energy.

Xi Jinping, Li Zhanshu posing for a photo: BEIJING, CHINA - APRIL 26: Russia's President Vladimir Putin (front L) and China's President Xi Jinping (C) arrive for the welcome banquet for leaders attending the Belt and Road Forum at the Great Hall of the People on April 26, 2019 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Nicolas Asfouri - Pool/Getty Images)

BEIJING, CHINA - APRIL 26: Russia's President Vladimir Putin (front L) and China's President Xi Jinping (C) arrive for the welcome banquet for leaders attending the Belt and Road Forum at the Great Hall of the People on April 26, 2019 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Nicolas Asfouri - Pool/Getty Images)
© Pool/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images

Russia-China relations strong amid trade war

In an interview with TASS ahead of the trip, the Chinese leader called Putin his "best and bosom friend," adding he cherished their "deep friendship."

"My engagement with President Putin is built on a high degree of mutual trust. That is the solid foundation of our close friendship. We treat each other with respect, candor, understanding and trust," he said.

Xi's visit comes as the trade war between the US and China continues to put pressure on both economies. In early May, after trade talks between Washington and Beijing fell apart, the Trump administration raised tariffs to 25% on $200 billion of Chinese goods.

Beijing responded by raising tariffs on $60 billion of US exports and escalating its anti-American propaganda. On May 30, the Chinese government accused the US of "economic terrorism."

"It's to show the US that there's a strong Beijing Moscow alliance which could actually be used against, what Beijing terms, American unilateralism," Willy Lam, an adjunct professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and a longtime analyst of Chinese politics said.

Meanwhile, the relationship between Xi and Putin remains strong. Since 2013, the two leaders have met almost 30 times, according to state media. Their last bilateral was at the second Belt and Road Summit held in Beijing in April.

The Chinese government has regularly praised its relationship with Moscow, with the Foreign Ministry saying in April relations were at their "best level in history."

China is Russia's largest trading partner, far ahead of the United States and any European countries.

According to Xi, the bilateral trade volume reached more than $100 billion in 2018, rising by 30% from the previous year. China's imports from Russia soared by 42.7% in 2018.

There have even been suggestions in Russian state media that Chinese businesses might consider moving production to Russia, under pressure from the US-China trade war.

"These notable results of our business cooperation are especially valuable given the current complex environment of sluggish global trade and investment and surging protectionism in the world," Xi told TASS.

But Lam said he wasn't sure how much use Russia would be to China in avoiding serious economic damage from the US trade war. 

"On the trade front, Russia is quite isolated and the Russian economy is quite small, so there's not much that Russia can do to help China on the trade front against the US," he said.

Xi also visited the Moscow Zoo with Putin on Wednesday, which received a pair of giant pandas in April for "research cooperation."

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