MOSCOW – Russia and China will hold regular security consultations, President Vladimir Putin (search) and a visiting Chinese official announced Wednesday, moving to further strengthen close military cooperation between the two Cold War-era adversaries.
China's State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan (search) told Putin that Beijing does not have such a consultation mechanism with any other country. He called Russia China's "main partner for strategic cooperation."
"This is the first time ever that China is establishing a mechanism of national security consultations with another country," said Tang, who said he had discussed details of the initiative with Russian Security Council secretary Igor Ivanov (search) earlier in the day.
"We decided to establish such a mechanism with Russia because we have close positions regarding the international situation, key international and regional issues, as well as issues related to maintaining peace and helping global development," Tang said. "We have common strategic interests related to those issues."
Putin hailed an increasingly close cooperation between the former Communist rivals, saying that "relations in the political, economic and security sphere and in the field of military cooperation have been developing intensively."
Putin said that Moscow is looking forward to a visit by President Hu Jintao (search) set for May and a joint Russian-Chinese military exercise set for later this year.
The maneuvers, set to begin in August, were seen by many observers as Russia's response to the cooling of relations with the United States and other Western nations, most recently over the presidential election in Ukraine.
Gen. Vladimir Mikhailov, Russia's air force chief, said last month that Tu-22M and Tu-95 bombers will take part in the exercises, hoping to encourage China's interest in buying them.
China's air force has some older Soviet-designed bombers, but they have far lower capability than the Tu-22Ms and Tu-95s, which are capable of hitting distant targets with long-haul conventional or nuclear-tipped cruise missiles.
After decades of rivalry, Moscow and Beijing have developed what they call a strategic partnership since the 1991 Soviet collapse, pledging their adherence to a "multipolar world," a term that refers to their opposition to a perceived U.S. domination in global affairs.
China has purchased billions of dollars worth of fighters, missiles, submarines and destroyers, becoming the No. 1 customer for struggling Russian defense industries.