- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 16, 2024

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Russian President Vladimir Putin held a day of talks Thursday in Beijing with Chinese President Xi Jinping, in a visit meant to forge closer strategic ties and portray the United States as an aggressive Cold War hegemon attempting to destabilize the world.

The summit comes amid mounting tensions both states are experiencing with Washington. In a joint press appearance, Mr. Putin and Mr. Xi signed a statement that criticized the United States on two hot-button issues —  Russia’s war in Ukraine and the growing concern of a U.S.-China clash over Taiwan. “The parties reiterate their serious concern over the attempts of the United States to disrupt the strategic security balance in the region,” the document said, according to Russian press accounts.

The 7,000-word statement said examples include America’s global missile defenses using regional components and assets in space, as well as the Pentagon’s development of precision non-nuclear strike weapons that they warned could be used to take out the leaders of foreign governments.

The two leaders also criticized U.S. plans to deploy ground-based intermediate-range and short-range missiles in the Asia-Pacific and European regions that will include transfers of the missiles to American allies.

“The parties strongly condemn these extremely destabilizing steps, which pose a direct threat to the security of Russia and China,” the statement said. “The parties oppose the hegemonic attempts of the United States to change the balance of power in Northeast Asia by building up military power and creating military blocs and coalitions.”

Mr. Xi said in a media statement that the two nations plan to expand relations and “strategic cooperation, according to a state-run video of the session and a transcript of the statements read by the two leaders.

The summit followed the agreement signed in 2022 by Mr. Putin and Mr. Xi called the “no limits” partnership, signed days before Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine, launching the deadly conflict that is now in its third year.

The official state visit, Mr. Putin’s first abroad since assuming a fifth term in office last month, included a red-carpet review of People’s Liberation Army troops, a 21-gun salute and cheering schoolchildren waving Chinese and Russian flags at a welcoming ceremony at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.

China and Russia have served as a role model by showing others ways of building state-to-state ties of a new kind and working together as two major neighboring powers,” Mr. Xi said.

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded in an annual threat assessment earlier this month that Chinese support for Russian defense industrial base is tipping the balance of the war in Ukraine in Moscow’s favor. Air Force Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Kruse, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, also cited mounting concern over the growing collaboration among U.S. adversaries such as China, Russia and Iran.

Gen. Kruse said the Pentagon is reworking joint force military planning for a potential conflict over Taiwan, based on increasing Chinese and Russian military cooperation. The State Department earlier this month imposed economic sanctions on several Chinese companies for providing defense-related goods to Russia.

The Russian and Chinese leaders were to hold detailed discussions on a range of foreign policy issues during a Thursday evening meeting, Mr. Putin said at a joint press appearance with Mr. Xi. Mr. Xi said mutual support for each nations’ core interests is the central pillar of the partnership.

Greater technology cooperation and stable operation of manufacturing and supply chains are also being strengthened, the Chinese leader said, and the two leaders also discussed the need for a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Ukraine war.

China and Russia believe that the Ukraine crisis must be resolved by political means,” Mr. Xi said.

Mr. Putin, in his remarks, said the talks resulted in new directives for advancing the entire range of relations with China.

“Our talks have reaffirmed that Russia and China have similar or identical views on many international and regional issues,” Mr. Putin said noting Moscow and Beijing have independent foreign policies that seek a “fairer and more democratic multipolar world order.”

Russia and China are seeking to set up a new security architecture in the Asia-Pacific region that Mr. Putin said, “has no place for closed military-political alliances.”

“We believe that the creation of such alliances is extremely harmful and counterproductive,” he said.

Pushing back

The United States in recent years has increased alliances and partnerships in the Asia-Pacific as part of a strategy to push back against Chinese military, diplomatic and economic moves to dominate the region.

The Putin-Xi summit follows the visit to Beijing earlier this month by Secretary of State Antony Blinken who met with Mr. Xi and other leaders. Mr. Blinken said that Beijing’s non-market economic policies and practices threatened U.S. national security and pressed the Chinese to halt their support for Russia’s war in Ukraine.

U.S.-China tensions remain high over Taiwan where China has stepped up warship and warplane operations around the island in what the Pentagon has said is part of a strategy of coercion.

Tensions also remain high in the South China Sea where Chinese coast guard and naval vessels have been clashing with Philippines vessels over a disputed shoal.

China is now Russia’s main trading partner with 80 current construction projects valued at $200 billion between the two states, Mr. Putin said. Trade is now being carried out in Russian and Chinese currency as a way to protect against influence by “third parties” and global currency markets, he added, referring to international sanctions led by the United States.

Russia has been a main supplier of nuclear material and reactors that the Pentagon has said are being used for Beijing’s large-scale nuclear warhead buildup, an expansion the Strategic Command has called a “breakout.”

John F. Plumb, assistant defense secretary for space policy, told a House Armed Services subcommittee hearing in March 2023 that Russia is supplying highly enriched uranium for China’s fast-breeder reactors. Those reactors produce plutonium for warheads, he said.

Mr. Putin said the state-run Rosatom nuclear conglomerate is building power units in China for “peaceful use,” although one project is a new type of fast breeder reactor.

At the Chinese Foreign Ministry, spokesman Wang Wenbin, asked what new material support China is offering Russia’s “war economy,” said the question was an attempt to “shift the blame to China.”

China is committed to promoting talks for peace,” Mr. Wang said. “But we refuse to be the scapegoat, still less will we foot the bill for others’ actions.”

China has accused the United States of causing the conflict in Ukraine and preventing its resolution by providing arms to the Ukrainian government.

China expert Miles Yu said Mr. Putin is on the International Criminal Court’s wanted list as a result of Russian war crimes in Ukraine, making it difficult to travel without being arrested.

“So Putin’s international engagement venues are extremely limited,” said Mr. Yu, director of the Hudson Institute China Center.“That’s where China steps in to give Putin a global stage, acting like a godfather to provide protection for others shunned by the international community,” he said.

“The one-on-one meeting with Xi is sending a different message to the West that a new global arrangement has arrived with China now the leader of the pack and Russia as China’s new proxy, along with Iran and North Korea,” Mr. Yu said.

• Bill Gertz can be reached at bgertz@washingtontimes.com.

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