10/14/2004, 00.00
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Putin in China to talk oil and weapons

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Energy tops the agenda of Russian President Vladimir Putin's official visit to China. Putin, who arrived this morning in Beijing, has already met China's President Hu Jintao.

According to some analysts the main focus of the three-day visit is the Siberian oil pipeline route and new bilateral economic deals.

On the eve of his arrival, Putin said Moscow "would proceed on the basis of its own national interests".

Two routes are envisaged: one would the pipeline built to link Siberian oil fields to China; the other would bypass Russia's southern neighbour and cross much of Russia's Asia territory till the sea. The first proposal, which would favour Beijing, would run from the Siberian city of Angarsk to Daqing in north-eastern China and cost almost US$ 2 billion. The second would favour Japan and the US West Coast and see the pipeline end in the Russian port of Nakhodka where oil would be shipped to Japan. Total cost: US$ 5.2 billion.

The two Asian rivals are energy-thirsty and have made various offers to Russia. During his visit to Moscow in late September, China's Prime Minister Wen Jabao proposed investing US$ 12 billion in Russia's energy sector. Japan has proposed to invest at least US$ 5 billion in Russia's underdeveloped Far East.

So far Moscow favours the Japanese proposal. Putin said yesterday that whilst appreciating China's investment plans in Russia he urged Beijing to focus on high tech rather than energy.

In his meetings with Hu Jintao, Putin signed several documents on political, economic, humanitarian and international cooperation including terrorism and North Korea's nuclear threat.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, China has become the best customer of Russia's defence industry buying billions worth of fighter jets, submarines and ships. Russia is also China's main energy supplier. Last year oil imports from Russia were up by 73 per cent totalling 36.7 million barrels. China is however worried about the failure to build the Daqing oil pipeline and the cutbacks in oil supplies from Russia's financially-strapped Yukos oil company.

President Putin's visit in China coincides with the 55th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. It is also Putin's third visit to China; his first since his March re-election.

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