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Algora Publishing - Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Beijing
                                               For a Kinder, Gentler Society
Tuesday,
Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Beijing
Beijing - July 18, 2000
(Reuters)

Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Beijing, as well as Japan and North Korea in his first visit to Asia since being elected in March, according to a Reuters report Monday.

Before leaving Russia, Mr. Putin stressed that the trip to Asia would balance out his so far very European diplomatic focus. "We know that Russia is both a European and Asian state," Putin said. "We pay tribute to European pragmatism and oriental wisdom. Russian foreign policy must therefore be balanced." He stressed that the trip to Asia would help adjust his very European diplomatic focus so far. Relations between China and Russia have been warming steadily over the past few years and are the best they have been in decades.

Putin will no doubt continue to play up the historic ties between Russia and China, as well as the fact that mainland President JIANG Zemin studied in Moscow and speaks Russian. Putin said, "We have enormous sympathy for the Chinese people. For such a long time, practically for all time, this has been not merely sympathy but special, warm feelings I thought about this once again, when the Chinese president was speaking Russian or singing Russian songs. I am only sorry that I cannot reciprocate."

Political analyst, Sergeo Karaganov noted that "Putin is perhaps close to the Chinese leadership in spirit. He is a pragmatist and has made rebuilding Russia's economic strength his priority.

The prospects for our relations are good." Putin and his large delegation of foreign and economic advisors and regional leaders are hoping to discuss bilateral trade, strategic issues and perhaps commiserate on recent criticisms by Western nations of Russian and Chinese human rights records.

Despite the fact that Beijing buys a large proportion of Russian oil, natural gas and weapons and that Russia is keen to tap into the one-billion plus army of mainland consumers, bilateral trade between the two countries is just five billion dollars annually. Both sides had pledged to reach twenty billion dollars per year by 2000.

The Tuesday agenda features a multi-billion dollar gas pipeline from Siberia, which can in part address the less-than-ideal trade record. Leaders of the two nations may also discuss recent developments such as the U.S. anti-missile defense plan which both Beijing and Moscow oppose because they fear it will set off another arms race. Both leaderships are also furious about Western critiques of Russian and mainland Chinese human rights records, which both classify as "internal affairs."

Similarly, the two countries are anxious about the Western reaction to genocide in Yugoslavia and Rwanda, a reaction which has come to favor international intervention where human rights atrocities occur and therefore opposes the use of state sovereignty as an alibi for not intervening in such conflicts. After his visits to both Beijing and North Korea, the Russian president heads to Okinawa, Japan to attend the Group of Eight annual summit.