Russian President Vladimir Putin has told a senior Chinese military official that Moscow and Beijing should expand their co-operation on military satellites and other prospective defence technologies – a statement that signals increasingly close defence links between the allies.
Mr Putin spoke in televised remarks at the start of his meeting with Gen Zhang Youxia, who is China’s second-ranking military official and vice chairman of the Central Military Commission.
The Russian leader emphasised the importance of developing closer military links, noting that co-operation in high-tech spheres now takes priority.
Mr Putin said: “I mean space, including high-orbit assets, and new prospective types of weapons that will ensure strategic security of both Russia and the People’s Republic of China.”
He emphasised that while “Russia and China aren’t building any military alliances based on Cold War patterns”, their co-operation is a “serious factor in stabilising the international situation”.
Beijing declared last year that it had a “no-limits” friendship with Russia. China has denounced Western sanctions against Moscow, and accused Nato and the United States of provoking Russia’s military action in Ukraine even as it tried to project itself as neutral in the Ukrainian conflict.
Russia, in turn, has continuously voiced support for Beijing on issues related to Taiwan.
Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Moscow in March to further cement ties, and Mr Putin travelled to Beijing last month for a summit of China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative.
Speaking during Wednesday’s meeting with Gen Zhang, Mr Putin noted that Nato has sought to expand its reach to the Asia-Pacific region, in what he described as “an attempt to go beyond its geographic sphere of influence”.
He said: “The US has increasingly drawn the alliance members into inciting tensions in the Asia-Pacific region and tried to create new military-political alliances, including countries of the region, proceeding from its own egoistic interests.”
Mr Putin added that Russia and China were responding in a “calm and balanced way” and work to strengthen their security with joint air force and navy drills.
Gen Zhang hailed Moscow for resisting Western pressure, saying that “the Russian Federation under your leadership is standing firm in the face of Western sanctions, showing that you and Russia won’t be bent by any difficulties”.
He added: “The Chinese side expresses its respect for you for this.”
Speaking during a meeting with Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu earlier in the day, Gen Zhang said that the relations between Russia and China are “at the highest level in the new epoch”, adding that the two countries “invariably support each other on issues of fundamental interest and key concerns”.
He hailed a “model of strategic trust and mutually beneficial co-operation” between Moscow and Beijing, and noted that his visit is intended to help further boost military co-operation.
Mr Shoigu said that defence ties between Russia and China aren’t aimed at third countries.
“Unlike certain aggressive Western countries, we are not creating a military bloc,” he said, adding that mutual ties “set an example of strategic interaction based on trust and respect”.
“We hold regular operational and combat exercises on land, in the air and at sea, and successfully accomplish combat training missions of various levels of complexity shoulder-to-shoulder,” Mr Shoigu said.
“All those actions do not target third countries and are taken exclusively in each other’s interests.”
He invited Gen Zhang to discuss “further steps to expand co-operation in the sphere of defence and international issues”.