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China's Xi leaves Moscow with anti-Western sign-off

Putin and Xi drank champagne during the trip.
Putin and Xi drank champagne during the trip. Copyright PAVEL BYRKIN/AFP
Copyright PAVEL BYRKIN/AFP
By Joshua Askew with AP/AFP
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The Chinese leader gave Putin a strong political boost during his days-long visit to the Russian capital.

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Chinese leader Xi Jinping has left Moscow, concluding a days-long meeting with the Russian president. 

His visit was a powerful political boost for Vladimir Putin, with the two countries pledging to bolster strategic ties and combat the West, though there was no mention of supplying weapons to Moscow.  

The trip coincided with an unexpected visit of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to Kyiv, who also left this morning. 

In Moscow, Xi promoted Beijing's peace plan for Ukraine, which Putin cautiously endorsed, saying on Tuesday it could provide a basis for a settlement of the fighting. 

Western nations have already dismissed this proposal, alongside Kyiv. 

After the talks, Putin and Xi issued a joint statement promising to enhance “strategic cooperation”, alongside deepening collaboration in energy, high-tech industries and trade to reduce reliance on the West.

Russian-Chinese trade rose by 30% last year to $185 billion, the Russian leader said earlier. It’s expected to top $200 billion this year, he added.

The pair pledged to develop military cooperation and conduct more naval and air drills, but there was no mention of Chinese weapon supplies to Russia - something the US and its Western allies fretted over.

During the visit, Putin and Xi praised the coming "new era" of relations with the West, with the summiting aiming to demonstrate the solidity of relations between Russia and China. 

This rapprochement comes as Moscow's invasion of Ukraine and Beijing's growing regional assertiveness is already creating tensions with the US and its allies.  

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov previously accused NATO of wanting to become the world’s dominant military force and said Moscow is trying to prevent it.

“That is why we are expanding our cooperation with China, including in the security sphere,” he said.

In a statement that had Cold War overtones, the two leaders attacked the West, accusing the US of "undermining" international security to maintain its "military advantage". 

Both expressed their concern at the growing military presence of NATO in Asia. 

Facing Western sanctions, Russia is trying to reorientate its economy towards the east, especially by redirecting sanctioned energy supplies. 

On Tuesday, Putin announced an agreement with Xi on the gigantic Siberian Force 2 gas pipeline project, which will allow Russia to supply 50 billion cubic metres of extra gas every year. 

Japan in Ukraine

Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida made a surprise visit Tuesday to Kyiv, stealing some of the global attention from Asian rival Xi. 

The two visits, nearly 800 kilometres apart, highlighted the Ukraine war’s repercussions for international diplomacy as countries line up behind Moscow or Kyiv. 

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They follow a week in which China and Japan both enjoyed diplomatic successes that have emboldened their foreign policy.

Before his trip, the Japanese Foreign Ministry would: “Show respect to the courage and patience of the Ukrainian people who are standing up to defend their homeland under President Zelenskyy’s leadership, and show solidarity and unwavering support for Ukraine as head of Japan and chairman of G-7.” 

Kyodo News said Kishida visited a church in Bucha, a town outside Kyiv that became a symbol of Russian atrocities against civilians, laid flowers at a church there and paid his respects to the victims.

“I’m outraged by the cruelty. I represent the Japanese citizens to express my condolences to those who lost their lives,” he was quoted as saying.

Kishida was the only G-7 leader who hadn’t visited Ukraine and was under domestic pressure to do so.

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A traditionally pacifist country, Japan’s support for Ukraine has been limited to equipment such as helmets, bulletproof vests and drones, and humanitarian supplies including generators.

Toyko has contributed more than $7 billion to Ukraine, while accepting more than 2,000 displaced Ukrainians. 

US Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel tweeted about the “two very different European-Pacific partnerships” that unfolded Tuesday.

“Kishida stands with freedom, and Xi stands with a war criminal,” Emanuel said, referring to last week's action by the International Criminal Court, which issued an arrest warrant for Putin, saying it wanted to put him on trial for the abductions of thousands of children from Ukraine.

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