China and Russia have cemented their burgeoning trade relationship with billions of dollars in new deals as the prime minister Vladimir Putin met his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao. Mr Putin, who arrived late Monday, was also due to meet the president Hu Jintao as the two countries seek closer ties, and attend a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a regional security grouping, during his visit.
It is the Russian leader's first trip to China since he took over as prime minister last year, although he visited four times previously as president. Mr Wen greeted Mr Putin at the Great Hall of the People on Tiananmen Square in a formal welcome ceremony before the closed-doors talks, Chinese state media said. The leaders will sign several agreements, officials said, including one committing each country to notifying the other of the launch of ballistic missiles from its territory.
The head of Russian gas giant Gazprom, Alexei Miller, said a massive gas deal would be signed in the presence of Mr Wen and Mr Putin that would see 70 billion cubic metres of natural gas sent to China annually. "A framework agreement has been initialled. This document will be signed today," Mr Miller said. "It will be a long-term contract, about 70 billion cubic metres" of gas annually, he said. He did not reveal financial details for what he termed the "long-term contract".
About 40 economic deals worth around $3.5 billion were signed early today ahead of the Wen-Putin talks, the Russian deputy prime minister Alexander Zhukov told reporters. Mr Zhukov gave few details but said the deals included financing arrangements between Russian and Chinese banks, adding that more agreements would be sealed between Putin and Wen. "I think a meeting between the two premiers will be successful. A whole number of very serious intergovernmental agreements will be signed," he said, without offering specifics on those deals.
The Russian government said earlier that other agreements to be struck include a memorandum of understanding on developing high-speed train travel on Russian territory. *AFP