MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin told a senior Chinese military official Wednesday that Moscow and Beijing should expand their cooperation on military satellites and other prospective defense technologies— a statement that signaled increasingly close defense links between the allies.
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 emphasized the importance of developing closer military links, noting that cooperation in high-tech spheres now takes priority.
“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,” Putin said without elaboration.
He emphasized that while “Russia and China aren’t building any military alliances based on Cold War patterns,” their cooperation is a “serious factor in stabilizing the international situation.”
Putin has previously said that Russia has been sharing highly sensitive military technologies with China that helped significantly bolster its defense capability.
In October 2019, he mentioned that Russia was helping China to develop an early warning system to spot ballistic missile launches — a system involving ground-based radar and satellites that only Russia and the U.S. had.
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.
Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping have developed strong personal ties to bolster a “strategic partnership” between the former Communist rivals as they both face soaring tensions with the West.
Xi visited Moscow in March to further cement ties and Putin traveled to Beijing last month for a summit of China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative.
Putin asked Zhang to again convey his thanks to Xi for a warm welcome, noting that they have “very friendly personal ties” contributing to the development of Russia-China relations.
Russia and China have held a series of joint war games in recent years, including naval drills and patrols by long-range bombers over the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea. Russian and Chinese ground forces also have deployed to the other country’s territory for joint drills.
Speaking to Zhang, 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.”
“The U.S. 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,” he said.
He 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.
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.” “The Chinese side expresses its respect for you for this,” he said.
Speaking during a meeting with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu earlier in the day, 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 cooperation” between Moscow and Beijing, and noted that his visit is intended to help further boost military cooperation.
Shoigu said that defense 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,” Shoigu said. “All those actions do not target third countries and are taken exclusively in each other’s interests.”
He invited Zhang to discuss “further steps to expand cooperation in the sphere of defense and international issues.”