China and Russia on Tuesday cemented their burgeoning trade relationship with billions of dollars in new deals signed during a visit by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin
The two sides signed several cooperation agreements, including one committing each country to notifying the other of the launch of ballistic missiles from its territory, as well as a raft of commercial accords.
Russian gas giant Gazprom and China National Petroleum Corporation signed a framework agreement which Gazprom head Alexei Miller said would eventually see 70 billion cubic metres of natural gas sent to energy-hungry China per year.
Putin hailed what he called an "unprecedented" level of understanding between the formerly bitter Cold War foes during a joint appearance with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao following talks at the Great Hall of the People.
"The unprecedented level of mutual understanding allows us to successfully solve any problems," Putin said.
|Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (L) toasts with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (R) in Beijing.|
"The strategic partnership between Russia and China is developing dynamically," added Putin, who was making his first official visit to China since taking over as prime minister in May last year.
China's official Xinhua news agency quoted Wen as saying Sino-Russian ties were "a role model of relations between neighbouring countries and relations between big powers."
"China is willing to work with Russia to make greater achievements in the future," he was quoted as saying.
Putin called the missile agreement "a very important step in the direction of ramping up trust towards each other and strengthening strategic cooperation."
The two countries also signed an agreement on developing high-speed train travel on Russian territory.
On the gas agreement, Miller said it would be a "long-term" deal, without divulging any financial terms.
Putin's powerful deputy prime minister and energy czar, Igor Sechin, told reporters that a formal contract could be signed in June next year, with deliveries to potentially begin in 2014-2015.
About 40 economic deals worth around 3.5 billion dollars were signed early Tuesday ahead of the Wen-Putin talks, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov told reporters.
"It's the first time, perhaps, that such large commercial deals are being sealed in such volume between Russian and Chinese enterprises," Zhukov said.
Zhukov gave few details but said they included a pair of large bank financing deals.
China Development Bank would extend 500 million dollars in financing to Russian's Vnesheconombank (VEB), while Agricultural Bank of China struck an identical deal with Russia's VTB bank.
Despite a rocky Cold War relationship, Sino-Russian ties have grown markedly since the collapse of the former Soviet Union, with Russian energy and military sales driving the relationship.
Bilateral trade between the giants grew to more than 56 billion dollars in 2008 -- more than 2.5 times the volume of 21 billion dollars in 2004, according to the Chinese commerce ministry.
Russia has been watching China's growing economic and political might with a mixture of awe and unease.
However, in a message on communist China's 60th birthday on October 1, Putin and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev hailed Moscow's "strategic partnership" with Beijing, a term usually reserved for its closest allies and friends.
During Putin's visit, the two nations -- both permanent members of the UN Security Council -- were also expected to coordinate on diplomatic issues, especially how to respond over the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programmes.
On Wednesday, Putin will attend a heads of government meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a group dominated by China and Russia that has been touted as a counterweight to Western-led institutions.
Moscow has said an "important document" could be adopted at the SCO meeting on joint efforts to combat the effects of the global financial crisis.
The SCO also includes four ex-Soviet Central Asian countries -- Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan -- while India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan have observer status.