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Putin Arrives For Three-Day China Visit

Russian President Vladimir Putin will spend three days in China in meetings mostly aimed at boosting trade and cooperation in energy and foreign policy.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in Beijing on his first Asia trip since taking office for his third term in the Kremlin almost a month ago.

Both energy and foreign policy cooperation are high on the agenda of the three-day visit to China, with Putin also participating in a regional summit.

The ongoing unrest in Syria and the Iranian nuclear standoff are also expected to be topics of discussion.

Both Russia and China have resisted Western calls to condemn Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and insists that his removal cannot be a precondition for political dialogue.

The two have also opposed further sanctions against Iran over its suspected drive to develop nuclear weapons. Tehran says its nuclear activities are solely for nonmilitary purposes.

Ambitious Trade Goals

Economic issues are also set to figure prominently on the visit, particularly energy.

The Russian leader is being accompanied on the visit by six cabinet ministers, as well as the heads of Russian energy giants Gazprom, Rosneft, and Transneft, and other firms.

However, a long-awaited deal that would allow Moscow to supply some 70 billion cubic meters of gas to its neighbor each year is not expected be signed due to pricing disagreements.

Kremlin foreign policy aide Yury Ushakov last week said the two countries planned to sign 17 diplomatic and business agreements.

Ahead of the visit, Putin told Chinese media that he wanted to increase bilateral trade to grow to $200 billion by 2020, from $84 billion last year.

Putin, whose trip to China comes just weeks after he canceled a visit to the United States, will hold talks with his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, later on June 5.

He will also be welcomed with a formal reception at Beijing's Great Hall of the People in the evening.

On June 6, he is expected to meet Vice Premier Li Keqiang, who is set to be the next prime minister, and Xi Jinping, who is expected to become next president later this year.

Shanghai Group Meeting

The Russian president is also to attend a two-day Beijing summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) from June 6.

He is to separately meet the presidents of Iran and Afghanistan on the sidelines of the event.

The SCO's members are: China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

Iran’s Mahmud Ahmadinejad will attend the summit as the president of an SCO observer country. President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan will also be in attendance as a guest.

The SCO, founded in 2001 to enhance security cooperation between its members, has since expanded its discussions to cover economic, cultural, and other forms of cooperation.

Putin, who arrived in China from Uzbekistan, is due to visit Kazakhstan on June 7.

Based on reporting by AFP, Reuters, AP, and dpa