China's Xi plans to meet Putin on visit to Russian port city

Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin next week in a sign of strengthening ties between the two Asian giants.

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The summit will take place during Xi's working visit to Russia's far-eastern port city of Vladivostok on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Chinese foreign ministry said Friday. It will be the first time a Chinese head of state has attended the Russian-hosted Eastern Economic Forum, a gathering Moscow hopes will encourage investment in its thinly populated far-east.

Xi's visit is a sign of healthy ties between China and Russia that have been cemented by joint military exercises and coordination on foreign policy issues from Syria to North Korea. China this month is sending 3,200 troops and about 900 weapons units to take part in the biggest Russian military exercises since the Cold War.

The visit also comes as China is reaching out to trade partners amid a tariff war with the United States. Russia has in recent years surpassed Saudi Arabia as China's largest source of crude oil and Beijing also imports Russian gas and military equipment.

Russia and China have responded to the U.S. national security strategy describing them as America's top adversaries by vowing to further expand their economic, political and military cooperation. They have also sought to strengthen the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional grouping they created and which holds occasional defense exercises.

The relationship is driven in part by the warm ties between Putin and Xi, seen as the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong. The two have met 25 times — five times last year alone, according to Putin's foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov. Putin's visit begins on Friday.

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