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China’s new defense minister reveals main goal of Russian visit

Beijing is fully committed to strengthening military cooperation with Moscow, Li Shangfu says

Newly appointed Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu has said that his ongoing visit to Russia is aimed at demonstrating the strength of relations between Beijing and Moscow to the international community.

Li arrived in the Russian capital on Sunday for a three-day trip and has already held talks with President Vladimir Putin. On Tuesday, the Chinese minister met with his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoigu at the Russian Defense Ministry’s headquarters in Moscow.

“After my appointment as the defense minister, my first visit is made to Russia in order to demonstrate to the outside world the high level of Chinese-Russian relations,” Li said before the beginning of talks.

The trip is also intended to stress Beijing’s “firm determination to strengthen strategic cooperation between the militaries of China and Russia,” he added.

Li insisted that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army would fulfill all the agreements reached between President Xi Jinping and Putin during the Chinese leader’s visit to Russia in March. The minister stated that this would take military cooperation between the two countries to “a new level.” 

Shoigu greeted Li in Chinese, saying “nihao” (hello). He expressed confidence that cooperation with his new Chinese counterpart would be fruitful and beneficial for both nations.

The Russian defense minister also said that the “comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation” between Russia and China, which Putin and Xi spoke about last month, needed to be developed further through mutual support, including on national security issues.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Li Shangfu and Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu meet at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, April 16, 2023
Putin meets with Chinese defense minister

“It’s crucial that our countries similarly assess the substance of the ongoing transformation of the global geopolitical landscape,” the Russian minister said.

According to Shoigu, the coordination of Russian and Chinese efforts on the international stage “has a stabilizing effect on the situation in the world and helps reduce the potential for conflict.” 

Li was appointed head of the Chinese Defense Ministry in mid-March, being tasked with overseeing military development amid rising tensions with Washington. The 65-year-old, who was formerly director of China’s Equipment Development Department, is currently under US sanctions for “engaging in significant transactions with Rosoboronexport,” Russia’s main arms export entity.

Since the conflict in Ukraine broke out more than a year ago, China has resisted Western pressure to condemn or sanction Russia. Instead, Beijing has boosted ties with Moscow, while consistently calling for a peaceful settlement of the crisis and arguing that US actions and NATO expansion helped provoke the fighting.

April 18, 2023 at 08:56PM

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