Chinese and Russian defence ministers reaffirm close bilateral ties

China’s defence minister said on Friday that maintaining close ties with Russia was of “particular importance”, even as Washington presses Beijing to stop what the US contends is its continued support for Moscow’s military.

Minister Dong Jun made the statement on Friday during a work session with his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoigu in Astana, Kazakhstan, on the sideline of a defence ministers’ meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

“In a volatile international environment, it is particularly important that the relations between our armed forces maintain a high dynamic and respond to the trends of the times. Our interaction is important for strategic stability on the planet,” Dong was quoted by the TASS news agency as saying.

Shoigu said that friendly relations between Russia and China “continue to develop at a high rate, expanding in all areas”, and that Moscow-Beijing military cooperation was essential for enhancing defence capacities and maintaining global and regional stability.

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China’s top diplomat says Beijing supports Ukraine-Russia summit at ‘right time’

China’s top diplomat says Beijing supports Ukraine-Russia summit at ‘right time’

“We regularly carry out operational and combat training on land, at sea and in the air, successfully practising combat training tasks of varying complexity,” he was quoted as saying.

Shoigu attributed worsening military and political tension in the world to “the West’s geopolitical escapades and selfish neocolonial activities”, adding that Moscow and Beijing generally agreed “on the fundamental issues of the current world order and pressing international problems”.

It was the second meeting between the two in three months, following a video conference in January, which was also Dong’s first international engagement since being named defence minister in December.

The Astana session coincides with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip to Beijing, where he has raised the issue of China’s support for Russia’s military.

China under scrutiny over Ukraine as Xi prepares for Europe tour, Putin visit

Although it declared a “no limit partnership” with Russia in the weeks before the invasion of Ukraine, China maintains that it is neutral in the conflict and that it has not provided weapons to the Russian military.

Washington has accused Beijing of exporting dual-use goods – supplies with both civilian and military applications – to Russia that were having “a material effect in Ukraine”.

After meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday in Beijing, Blinken said he had challenged Xi on the issue and “was extremely clear about our concerns”.

“I reiterated our serious concern about the PRC providing components that are powering Russia’s brutal war of aggression against Ukraine,” he said.

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken boarding his flight as he prepares to depart Beijing on Friday. Photo: AFP

“China is the top supplier of machine tools, microelectronics, nitrocellulose, which is critical to making munitions and rocket propellants, and other dual-use items that Moscow is using to ramp up its defence industrial base,” he said.

It had been reported before Blinken’s trip that the US was considering sanctioning Chinese banks for that reason.

On Friday Blinken did not respond to a question about whether Washington would indeed impose those sanctions.

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