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Diplomacy
Vladimir Putin: Answers to questions from journalists following a visit to China

Vladimir Putin: Answers to questions from journalists following a visit to China

by Vladimir Putin

한국어로 읽기Leer en españolIn Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربيةLire en françaisЧитать на русском Vladimir Putin replied to questions from Russian media representatives on the outcomes of his two-day state visit to the People’s Republic of China. Question: It would not be an exaggeration to say that the whole world watched your visit here, as evidenced by a spate of news reports and publications. It is clear that the future of the rapidly changing world largely depends on the positions of Russia and China. Following your talks in China, we would like to know whether Moscow and Beijing have a shared understanding of how the future system of international security and politics should evolve. Vladimir Putin: First of all, I would like to thank President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping and the leadership of China for this invitation and for creating a very favourable and warm atmosphere for our joint work. On the whole, the talks were very meaningful and very substantive. This was an official state visit, but it was also very much a working trip. From morning until evening, we spent virtually the entire day with the President of China and his colleagues. We raised multiple issues for discussion. You said that the future depends on Russia and China, but this is only partly true. The future of humankind depends on the whole of humanity. Certainly, Russia and China are important components of modern civilisation. We have our own views on how we should develop. Certainly, our advancement will influence the advancement of all partners on the planet. We believe that development should be constructive and peaceful, no doubt about it. Apart from our interests, it should heed the interests of all parties to international interaction. Of course, it is necessary to strengthen the emerging multipolar world. There is absolutely no doubt that a new world is taking shape before our eyes and becoming multipolar. I believe all the people are aware of this. It is important that those who are trying to maintain their monopoly on making decisions on all issues globally should realise this (I believe that they do realise it perfectly well). Understanding this, they should do everything possible to facilitate this natural process. I repeat, this process should be peaceful and conflict-free, with the opinions of all parties to the international process fully considered. All of us should seek compromises while making the difficult decisions that lie ahead. We are committed to this approach and to precisely this kind of work. I have discussed this repeatedly, and the President of China has also emphasised this: our interaction, cooperation and strategic partnership with China, Russia-China partnership, is not directed against anyone. Our aim is solely to create better conditions for the development of our countries to improve the well-being of the peoples of China and the Russian Federation. Question: How did your informal meeting with Xi Jinping go? Your aide said it took place in a super-narrow format but was attended by Defence Minister Andrei Belousov and Security Council Secretary Sergei Shoigu. Did you discuss Ukraine? What would you personally consider convincing evidence of Ukraine’s readiness for talks? Earlier both you and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov repeatedly said that the Western partners could no longer be trusted. Vladimir Putin: Yes, this meeting took place in the narrow format. We really discussed many issues that are important for bilateral relations. We discussed the issue of settling the Ukrainian crisis. The President of the PRC told me the main theses of what he discussed during his recent visit to Europe. He set forth his position linked with Chinese peace initiatives. We have said more than once that we believe that China is sincerely striving to settle this problem. It offers different options and is very flexible. I believe it is sincerely striving to resolve this problem. We discussed this at some length. As for our counter partners, let’s say in this case these are Ukrainian leaders and their European and overseas bosses. Well, we have spoken about this many times. When our troops stood near Kiev, our Western partners told us: it is impossible to sign documents when the other side puts a gun to your temple. “What should be done?” we asked. “It is necessary to withdraw troops from Kiev.” We did this. On the following day, they threw all our agreements into the dustbin and said: “Now we will fight to the end.” Their Western curators occupied the position that is now known to the whole world – to defeat Russia on the battlefield, to inflict a strategic defeat on it. It wasn’t us who behaved in this way. These were our partners. Ukrainian officials confirmed this, in particular, the head of the Ukrainian delegation at the talks in Minsk and later in Istanbul, said this. The then Prime Minister [of Great Britain] Mr Johnson came to Kiev and advised Ukraine to continue hostilities. Mr Arakhamia, the head of the Ukrainian delegation, who now leads the ruling parliamentary party in Ukrainian parliament, said that otherwise all hostilities would have been ended a year and a half ago. He said this in public, I believe, at his meeting with journalists. Nobody actually had doubts about this. So, let’s sum up this part of my answer to your question – we were cheated again. Now we need to understand whom and how we should deal with, whom we should trust and to what extent. Of course, we are analysing now everything that is taking place in this regard. Of course, we are looking at what is happening around the universally announced meeting in Switzerland, in Geneva. I believe this is the venue of the meeting. We are certainly not going to discuss any formulas about which we know absolutely nothing. But as distinct from Ukraine, we have never rejected talks. It is they who have quit the negotiating process. They announced that they are going to inflict a strategic defeat on us. It is they who said they were “going to fight to the end,” actually not to the end but to the last Ukrainian. They did everything with their own hands. We have a foundation for the negotiating process – what we agreed on in Istanbul and a signature of the head of the Ukrainian delegation under an excerpt from this large document. He initialed it. We have this document with his signature on it. What are these other additional terms about which we have never heard and know nothing? The goal of this event is clear. They want to gather as many countries as possible, declare that everything has been agreed upon with everyone and then present it to Russia as a resolved issue, as an ultimatum. This will never happen. Question: Keeping with the theme of Ukraine… Yesterday, Vladimir Zelensky visited Kharkov and held a general headquarters meeting there. At the same time, we are involved in heavy fighting near Kharkov and our troops seem to be gaining success. Vladimir Putin: The word “seem” is wrong. They are gaining success. Each day, they advance in strict conformity with the plan. Question: What is the plan all about? Are we going to seize Kharkov? Or does our objective consist in creating a sanitary zone, as you said earlier? Thank you. Vladimir Putin: I do not know what the head of the Ukrainian state was saying. The only thing I know is that in the final analysis, they are to blame for what is happening. The origin of the current Kiev authorities is the coup d’etat [that occurred in 2014]. This is the source of the present-day authority in Ukraine. This is my first point. Second, [Kiev’s] Western sponsors allowed the coup to happen by facilitating and orchestrating it. They created the conditions for a smoldering conflict to grow into an armed conflict. They are to blame for this. They are attempting to lay the blame on someone else and make Russia responsible for the current tragic developments. But this is the result of their own policies. As far as the developments in the Kharkov sector are concerned, they are also to blame for these, because they shelled and, regrettably, continue to shell residential areas in border territories [of Russia], including Belgorod. Civilians are dying there, it’s clear for everyone. They fire missiles right at the city centre, at residential areas. I said publicly that if this continues, we will be forced to create a security zone, a sanitary zone. And this is what we are doing today. As for [the seizure of] Kharkov, there are no such plans for now. Question: It has recently been reported that Chinese banks stopped accepting payment transfers from Russian banks. Did you discuss this issue with the Chinese leader? If so, have you reached an agreement? Have you coordinated a potential scheme of settlements that would be immune from Western sanctions? Thank you. Vladimir Putin: Sanctions imposed on third countries engaged in economic activities are doubly or triply illegitimate because sanctions are absolutely illegitimate when adopted without the approval of the UN Security Council. This goes beyond common sense when it comes to third countries. Incidentally, the Americans or Europeans are even using such sanctions against their own allies. Europeans are not using them against the Americans, but the Americans apply such sanctions against European economic operators and often follow them through not only with regard to Russia but also against other countries in other situation. It is a common practice, and Europeans bear with this, proving yet again their vassal dependence on the sovereign over the sea. Well, whatever! As for such decisions, they certainly do direct damage to the global economy, not just to the countries they are adopted against or their economic operators, but also to the global economy as a whole, including energy and other spheres of economic operation, and primarily the issues of settlements that are discussed by the economic operators. Solutions are possible, and there are such solutions. Of course, they should be supported at the level of governments, and I hope that this is how it will be. The reasons behind the behaviour of large financial institutions are understandable: nobody wants to sustain losses because of US actions, even if they are illegal. However, I would like to repeat what I said before: it is silly and a huge mistake of the American political elites because they are inflicting big harm on themselves by undermining trust in the US dollar. They are gradually undermining the status of the dollar as a global settlement and reserve currency, even though they are deriving huge profits from this now. First, they adopted the Bretton Woods system. Then they abandoned the gold standard of the dollar and [formalised a floating exchange rate system under] the Jamaica Agreement. What is it based on? It fully depends on the money printing press, or putting it more gallantly, on the might and quality of the American economy. Yes, this is exactly how things stand. All countries in the world trust the American economy, its might and stability, which is why they accept the dollars. This gives a huge and seemingly inexplicable advantage to the American economy and financial system. However, it can be presented in figures. According to our economists, it amounts to over 10 trillion dollars that have not been earned but are a gift from heaven that comes from the use of the dollar as a global reserve currency. Overall, the obligations of the US financial system to the rest of the world have been estimated at $53.4 trillion. However, by undermining trust in the dollar for political reasons, the US authorities are weakening the main and the most powerful and important instrument of their might – the dollar itself. They are doing irreparable damage to themselves. Using one of popular sayings, they are quarrelling with their own bread and butter. This is thoughtless, but they seem unable to stop doing it. The disadvantage of this for us is that we have to look for other solutions. However, there are also advantages, because it is unacceptable when one side is using financial and economic instruments to force its will on the rest of the world, including on the political stage. I assure you that all countries are aware of this; you only have to look at how fast their dollar-denominated reserves are diminishing. The world is responding. I believe that the [de-dollarisation] process is inevitable. We have started doing this, and it is a correct process. It entails certain shortcomings and problems, but it is correct in general, when we speak about making settlements in national currencies or creating other settlement instruments jointly with other countries. The process is underway; it has begun, and it cannot be stopped. Question: Mr President, let me return to the subject of Ukraine and certain Western initiatives. You have mentioned yesterday’s lengthy discussion with Xi Jinping on this issue. Could you please tell us whether you touched upon Macron’s initiative to declare an “Olympic truce”? Do you believe an Olympic truce is possible now? Or is this another attempt by the West to lure Russia into a trap, especially amid its military successes? Thank you. Vladimir Putin: Yes, President Xi Jinping mentioned this, and we did discuss this issue briefly. What I think is, first, the principles of Olympism, including the Olympic truce concept, are very sound principles. There is a reason the international community has spent centuries working them out. True, few countries ever invoked this particular principle, with the exception of Ancient Greece, but in general, the idea itself is good and constructive. The issue lies elsewhere. It has to do with the current international sports officials themselves violating the principles of the Olympic Charter. They are politicising sport, which is absolutely unacceptable, because the purpose of sport is to serve as a platform for communication between people and for negotiating compromises on other issues, including political ones. They are violating their own rules, now with regard to Russia, by excluding our athletes from the Olympic Games, not allowing them to display their flag, anthem, or national colours. They are violating the rules with regard to us, but they want us to comply with the rules that they dictate to us. Has anyone given this a thought? Is this in line with the elementary norms of justice? No. They are violating the rules but they demand that we comply with them. Well, friends, this is not getting us anywhere. No one has ever reached agreement like this. Before demanding anything or expecting others to do something, one needs to follow these rules. Overall though, sports are certainly progressing, and this progress will continue. I don’t know how the Olympic movement will fare now, with such officials. If they put money first, if money is the only thing that motivates or drives them, if sport becomes a commercial enterprise solely aimed at making a profit, I cannot see a bright future for the Olympic movement. Look, sport has actually transformed into a for-profit corporation. What is their top priority? To raise money from sponsors and to have large information companies pay for broadcasting. This is just a big business profiting from sporting events. But the principle of Olympism is something else – it is about humanitarian values. Question: This week, the US imposed duties on a number of Chinese goods – chips, semi-conductors, metals and solar batteries. Most important, it raised the duty on Chinese electric cars, I believe, four times, up to 100 percent. Can these moves be considered sanctions against China? Is Russia-China cooperation helping counter such attacks? Vladimir Putin: Of course, on the surface, they look like sanctions but these are already elements of an economic war to a certain extent. This is not the first time they have been used. Incidentally, I can assure you that politics, the character of Russia-China relations and the situation in Ukraine have nothing to do with this. These are just elements of unfair competition. We were making an MS-21 aircraft. We agreed on purchasing certain components that we had to put into its wings. These components have nothing to do with military production. They simply denied them to us by including them into a sanctions list. Indicatively, this list was linked with military production whereas the components we wanted had nothing to do with it whatsoever. Yes, we lost time and this production was pushed back by about a year and a half. But eventually, we made these components, these aircraft wing carbon fibre tows. We made them and they are even better than the American ones in quality and durability. The result will be the same in this case. I have just explained at the meeting with students why such restrictions were introduced against the Chinese auto industry, against electric cars. Just because they have become better and cheaper than European or American ones. That’s it. They are simply killing competitors, in this case, the Chinese rival and do not let it into their market. This is a prohibitive duty. The same is taking place in Europe, of course. As soon as some country, a global development centre, as we often put it, is developing and becoming more competitive, they stop it and put it down, they try to make it happen. Can Russia-China cooperation counter this in some way? To prevent this from happening, they are creating problems in financial items because we could purchase more. But we are restricted in purchasing these products because of money transfer problems. Is it possible to do something about this? Yes, it is. We will develop joint productions. This requires time, just as it was with aircraft components when we had to delay their production by half a year. This is the same case. We will go for joint production. This is the most erroneous and stupid way of building an international economic system. The correct idea is that the market decides everything and they were drumming it into our heads for decades, if I may put it this way – pardon the fancy language. But the market will still push them down. Do you understand what the point is? They are creating this problem for themselves with their own hands. What will this lead to? They have introduced sanctions against various goods. What will it lead to? Inflation in the US. This is what they will get. Because they will try to make these products themselves, at their own sites, paying wages to their own workers, paying for their expensive metal and their expensive energy. This is the result – the German economy in Europe is already operating nearly in the red while the French economy is teetering on the brink of recession. If the German economy starts coughing and feels bad, the entire European economy will not feel quite well, putting it mildly. This is the result of such decisions. These are not market decisions. They are completely stupid and have no prospects whatsoever. Question: Please, tell us at what conditions you would attend a peace conference on Ukraine in Switzerland if you should receive such an invitation. Thank you. Vladimir Putin: Well, politics does not know the subjunctive mood: “if only.” We will not continue. You know what would have happened there in other cases. But there are no “ifs.” They do not invite us. Moreover, they say they cannot imagine us being there. So what will we be [talking] about? “If you do this” looks like we are trying to get invited. “But if you do this, and if this is the case, then we would make these decisions.” Well, if they cannot imagine us being there, so much the better. This is first. The second, very important thing, is that we are not going to discuss right away what we do not know. As I said, we had been holding painstaking talks for a long time, almost a month and a half; first in Minsk, then in Istanbul, and reached certain compromises. The Ukrainian side signed an abstract of these documents. The package alone is so thick, but the summary with the fundamental issues outlined there were initialed by the Ukrainian side. So, we worked on it. Now there are some formulas but what are they based on? Based on some wishes and not on the real situation. Well, it is impossible to discuss. However, we are ready for discussion. We never refused. I have just said that, and this is not a joke, I did not make it up. As soon as the troops withdrew, the Westerners immediately told Ukraine: “Do not sign anything. Fight.” They snapped a salute and are following out. While we were immediately told, “Now we will fight to the last man.” This is what we were told. There will be no more talks. Now they see that they cannot succeed. Perhaps they will be able to fight to the last man but they cannot inflict a strategic defeat on Russia, and they can see that. Now they are beginning to squeak . “Let us urgently convene a conference.” – “Sure.” – “Will Russia participate?” “We are ready to participate in peace talks.” “But we will not invite you.” Here you are, Good Lord, there we go. And Russia is being accused of being reluctant to take part. But we have not been invited. You are asking: on what conditions? Why should I be proposing terms and asking to let me come where we are not wanted? And what is it that they want to do? Gather as many countries as possible, convince everyone that the terms proposed by the Ukrainian side are the best offer, and then present this to us as an ultimatum, saying, “You see, the whole world thinks so. Thus you must agree.” Is this a way to conduct substantive and serious talks? Of course, not. This is an attempt to impose. There was an attempt to inflict a strategic defeat, but it failed. The attempt to impose will end the same way. Remark: But still, as I see it, your condition is that the agreements reached must be in force. Vladimir Putin: Of course. This is the basic condition. They initialed it, but the document was not fully signed. It includes very serious issues related to ensuring Ukraine’s security. They are worded in such a way that requires subsequent consideration. But overall, this is the basis. They have been initialed by the Ukrainian side. I think, not least, probably, if not under the diktat, then with the consent of their Western sponsors. But everything is rigorously worded there regarding their interests. There is also something that has been taken into account concerning Russia’s security interests. There are a lot of questions there, which I do not want to go into right now. I remember if not all of them but all the main provisions. We are ready to discuss this. But then they dumped it because they wanted to gain an advantage on the battlefield and achieve a strategic position, which did not work out; so now they are handing out their terms. Have they gone nuts? Why on earth? Of course, we will proceed from the realities on the ground. This goes without saying. Question: My question isabout China and supplies of our hydrocarbons to it. Has an agreement in principle been reached on the Power of Siberia 2 project? When will construction start: this year or next year? Have there been any talks about a possible increase in supplies? Vladimir Putin: Yes. I am not ready to speak about technical details now, but both sides have confirmed their interest in implementing these projects. Since the Chinese economy is growing, it requires, accordingly, more energy resources needed to maintain this growth. Nothing is more reliable (I think this is clear) than supplies from Russia. We have a huge common border, and no one will interfere here: neither sanctions against the tanker fleet, nor even sanctions against financial institutions. We will buy and sell everything in national currencies. Therefore, the interest on both sides has been reaffirmed. On the one hand, there is interest in receiving additional volumes, on the other hand, there is interest in selling on the Chinese market. This is always a complicated process, involving the question of prices, the question of who will earn and how much. However, strategically we are absolutely interested, both the countries, in implementing these projects, and we will move forward with them. Gazprom and our oil companies will certainly come to terms. There are different routes. One of them runs via Mongolia, and both gas and oil pipelines can be laid in the same corridor. Specialists will have to decide how best to proceed. It is possible to use the Northern Sea Route. We can buy extra tankers and set up supplies via the Northern Sea Route, which is almost the same as the pipeline. All these alternatives are possible. They are all acceptable and economically expedient. It is necessary to choose the best ones. I am confident that this work will be completed as well. Question: My question is also about Ukraine, if I may. Vladimir Zelensky’s term of office is about to end, it expires on May 20. Will Russia no longer consider him a legitimate president after that date? And would it matter to you, will you be ready to talk to him afterwards? Vladimir Putin: We used to talk with him; we were in constant contact with him before the conflict entered the extreme phase of armed struggle. As for legitimacy, this question must first of all be resolved by the political and legal systems of Ukraine itself. There are all sorts of options in their Constitution. This is a question of assessment. This assessment, of course, should be primarily made by the Constitutional Court and in general, by the political system of Ukraine. But for us, of course, it matters, because if it comes to signing some documents, we certainly will have to sign documents in such a crucial area with the legitimate authorities, this is an obvious fact. But, I reiterate, this question must be answered by the political and legal (juridical) systems of Ukraine itself. Thank you very much. Question: Did you discuss with President Xi Jinping the fact that China had been invited to this international conference? Vladimir Putin: We discussed this issue as part of the package. Thank you very much for your attention. Question: Mr Putin, what about the French army in Ukraine? Vladimir Putin: I am not the president of France. Why are you asking me this? I am not the one to make this decision. Question: Mr Macron has repeatedly conveyed that he was ready to send troops there. If regular French troops move to Ukraine, will it mean a direct conflict, a war with the French? Vladimir Putin: First, you should have him answer your question about the French troops in Ukraine. Once you get the answer, we will start considering the consequences of this step. Question: Mr Putin, may I ask about the figure of [Defence Minister Andrei] Belousov? Excuse me, please, this is my last question. Why was Belousov appointed the Defence Minister? We are now at a critical juncture of the special military operation. Vladimir Putin: I covered that already. Mr Peskov covered that, too, because I asked him to do so. I will go over it again. This year, the level of defence spending for the Defence Ministry alone amounted to 6.7 percent of GDP. If you combine that with the amounts spent on law enforcement and security agencies, the total amount will slightly exceed 8 percent. The Defence Ministry accounts for the bulk of the spending meaning that the amount of spending of law enforcement and security agencies depends on how much the Defence Ministry spends. The Defence Ministry is the first to make purchases followed by law enforcement and security agencies. Their choices depend on the Defence Ministry’s choices. In addition, the Defence Ministry is charged with building the national defence system which is does with the enlistment of other security agencies. Their spending depends on that, too. So, with the Defence Ministry spending 6.7 percent, and the total defence and security spending coming at slightly over 8 percent, this amount of spending is not critical. Defence spending in the Soviet Union in 1985–1986 stood at 13 percent. Taking into account the state of the economy, macroeconomic indicators, and budget revenue forecasts, combined defence and security spending at slightly 8 percent is not critical and is absolutely safe. Experts are even saying it could be larger since the budget is robust enough to handle that. But this level of spending is what we currently have. As you are aware, Mr Belousov served as the Minister of Economy. He is considered a good economist, one of the best in the country. He was my aide on economic matters. He also served as the First Deputy Prime Minister. In this sense, he is, without a doubt, able to coordinate the Defence Ministry’s work with other ministries and agencies, as well as the regions. This is important as well. I am talking not only about the border regions, but other regions as well, because they, too, to a certain extent, are economic agents. This is my first point. My second point covers his mission. He must open the Defence Ministry to constructive interaction with the research centres and economic agents in the broad sense of the word, the manufacturers of the military-technical products and components that are needed for the production of military equipment. His job is to open the Defence Ministry to innovation. Indeed, Mr Shoigu has taken the initial steps towards this end. However, I believe that given his job functions in the recent past, the former Deputy Prime Minister will find it easier to accomplish this. These were the motives behind appointing him to this position. You all saw Mr Shoigu – it was widely covered – often visit and tour enterprises. He is fully aware of what is going on. He knows what the Armed Forces need in the medium and short term, and knows our industrial capabilities. To a certain extent, he was involved in the contacts with our foreign defence cooperation partners, because the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation was under the Defence Ministry, and he oversaw it. Considering this, he will have an enormous layer of work to deal with. It is all combined now. If you paid attention, I supported the idea of appointing Mr Manturov First Deputy Prime Minister precisely because we plan to focus the administrative resources on achieving the main objective facing the country today which is gaining the special military operation results that we need. Thank you very much.

Defense & Security
Australian flag and South Korean flag

Press Conference, Melbourne. Australia-Republic of Korea 2+2 Foreign And Defence Ministers’ Meeting

by Richard Marles , Cho Tae-Yul , Penny Wong

한국어로 읽기 Leer en español In Deutsch lesen Gap اقرأ بالعربية Lire en français Читать на русском Joint transcript with: The Hon Richard Marles MP, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Subjects: Australia-Republic of Korea 2+2 Foreign And Defence Ministers’ Meeting; AUKUS Pillar Two; Hanwha bid for Austal; foreign interference; Korean peninsula security. 01 May 2024 Deputy Prime Minister, Richard Marles: Well, welcome everyone. Today, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and I have had the pleasure of being able to welcome Minister Cho and Minister Shin, the Foreign Minister and the Defense Minister of South Korea to a 2+2 with Australia. In December of 2022, the Republic of Korea released its Indo-Pacific Strategy. And it described an assessment of the region and a response to it, which represented Korea looking to take its place in the region and the world. That is remarkably similar to the assessment that we made a few months later in the Defence Strategic Review. And it speaks to the fact that both Korea and Australia have a close strategic alignment and a shared vision about our place in the region and the world. And what was immediately obvious from that moment was the opportunity to take the relationship between our two countries to the next level. And today's 2+2 is very much an expression of that. We are seeing increased engagement between our two countries across the board. We are certainly seeing that in the realm of defence. Last year, Korea had its largest participation in Exercise Talisman Sabre, which is our major bilateral defence exercise. This year, we will see more Korean engagement in Exercise Pitch Black, Exercise Kakadu, Exercise Southern Jackaroo and we are very appreciative of Korea’s participation in those exercises, as we are in the way in which Korea and Australia are working together to uphold the rules-based order within our region and in fact, within the world. Both countries, as we've discussed today, are playing our part in supporting Ukraine in its resistance of the appalling aggression that is being forced upon it by Russia. We are working very closely together within our region to uphold the global rules-based order here as well, and that's seen in a greater engagement that both of us are doing with the countries of the Pacific and the countries of southeast Asia. We are particularly aware of the efforts that have been put in place for Korea to build its relationship with Japan and we see this as a very, very positive step forward in the strategic landscape of the region, and represents a huge opportunity for Australia to engage with both Korea and Japan. Finally, in respect of defence industry, we are seeing a blossoming of the relationship between our two countries in respect of defence industry. Yesterday, Minister Shin and I visited Hanwha's facility in Geelong, which is building for the Australian Army both the Huntsman and the Redback, which will be very central to our capabilities for the Army. But we're also very hopeful that these platforms represent an opportunity for greater industrial activity there, where we can see export to the world. Across the board, this is a relationship which is going to a new place, a place which is much deeper and much closer and we are very, very grateful for the presence of Minister Cho and Minister Shin in Australia today and we've really enjoyed the meeting that we've had this morning. Republic of Korea Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cho Tae-Yul: [spoken in Korean] Good afternoon, ladies and gentleman. I am Cho Tae-Yul, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea. I am grateful for the successful organisation of the sixth Republic of Korea-Australia 2+2 Foreign and Defence Minister’s Meeting and I extend my deepest thanks to Mr Richard Marles and Ms Penny Wong for the warm welcome toward our delegations. It is with great pleasure that I make my first visit as Minister of Foreign Affairs to Australia to, our esteemed regional partner. Together with Mr Shin Won-sik, Minister of National Defense. During the first day of our visit on the 29th of April we paid tribute to the enduring legacy of 17,000 Australian veterans at the Australian National Museum Korean War Memorial in Canberra, commemorating their profound sacrifices for peace. The sacrifices of Australian veterans have laid a solid foundation for the prosperity of our relationship and on behalf of the Korean Government and people, I’d like to express heartfelt gratidude to the Australian veterans for their unwavering dedication. Today’s meeting holds significant importance as it is the first gathering of its kind following the installation of our current governments and Korea’s announcement of our Indo-Pacific Strategy. This occasion is further distinguished by its location in Melbourne, a symbol of our robust cooperation in defence industry. The Ministers of the two countries engaged in extensive discussions aimed at deepening strategic cooperation and communication, reinforcing our shared vision at both regional and global levels. Both parties recognise each other as pivotal partners in the realisation of our respective Indo-Pacific strategies, and as likeminded nations agreed to enhance our cooperation at bilateral, unilateral and multilateral levels. We acknowledge the remarkable progress in our bilateral cooperation with national defence and defence industries, highlighted by the signing of a contract for the delivery of Redback IFVs and the participation of Korean military personnel in Exercise Talisman Sabre and we said that we will be strengthening our cooperation into the future. In the realms of cyber and maritime security, we agreed to collaborate in blocking North Korea’s access to funding for illicit nuclear and missile developments, and to thwart illegal activities such as arms trading between Russia and North Korea. Our Australian counterparts have expressed their steadfast support for enhancing the human rights of North Koreans and for our policies aimed at reunification. Furthermore, we resolved to continue our close collaboration with ASEAN and the Pacific regions which hold great significance for both our countries. We will also expand our cooperative efforts for comprehensive security in cyber and maritime security, as well as economic security and climate change. I am confident today’s meeting will mark a significant milestone in strengthening our partnership built on the shared foundations of liberal democracy and mutual trust, and will further our commitment to a rules-based regional and global order. Foreign Minister, Senator Penny Wong: Thank you very much. Can I first express my deep appreciation to Minister Cho and Defense Minister Shin for their travel to Australia for this Foreign and Defence Ministers’ 2+2 meeting. We appreciate you coming to Australia and we have deeply enjoyed the dialogue this morning. This is the first 2+2 for us Ministers. We recognise that this dialogue is a cornerstone of our comprehensive strategic partnership with Korea. Can I start by appreciating the Minister's acknowledgement of the role that Australia and Australian veterans have played in this bilateral relationship. We thank you for honouring those Australians who have served. It is a testament to the historic strength of our relationship. But more importantly, today, what we focus on is the increasing strategic and economic convergence that exists between our two nations. And the focus of our meeting was how to translate that convergence that the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Cho have articulated, how we translate that convergence into tangible and practical actions in southeast Asia, in the Pacific and more broadly in terms of our cooperation in in the Indo-Pacific. We are very interested not only in increasing our cooperation and our engagement in defence industries, but also in increasing our collaboration diplomatically and economically. I make note, as Foreign Minister Cho did, of our collective condemnation of North Korea's continue provocative, destabilising activities and we will continue to work together to ensure that this risk and threat to our collective security continues to be met in solidarity between our countries and other countries of the world. As you will see from the joint statement when it is released, discussed a range of other matters, including the Middle East, where we shared our perspectives. I thank, again, my counterpart, the Foreign Minister for his engagement. We were an early call for him and we appreciate it. And we appreciate the efforts that the Ministers have made in coming to Australia for this very important 2+2. Republic of Korea Minister of National Defense, Shin Won-Sik: [spoken in Korean] Good afternoon, I am Shin Won-sik, Minister of National Defense of the Republic of Korea. First of all, I would like to express my deepest appreciation to Mr Richard Marles, Deputy Prime Minister and Ms Penny Wong, Minister of Foreign Affairs for the warm reception of our delegations. We are externally grateful for the noble sacrifices made by the 17,000 Australians during the Korean War who fought for freedom and peace in our country. On behalf of our people, thank you. During the ROK-Australia Foreign and Defence Ministers’ Meeting we engaged in extensive discussions on a range of issues concerning the Korean peninsula, Indo-Pacific region and boarder global foreign affairs and defence matters and reaffirmed our commitment to further develop our bilateral future oriented relationships. Firstly, we agreed to continue enhancing our mutual and beneficial partnership in defence industry. It is with great pleasure that I know a Korean company was selected in Australia’s next generation Infantry Fighting Vehicle project, valued at $250 million USD. This follows the successful collaboration on the self-propelled artillery project in 2021. Yesterday, the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Marles, and I visited the construction site of a Korean company in Geelong where we witnessed firsthand our flourishing bilateral cooperation in the defence industry. This collaboration is set to not only modernise Australia’s military capabilities, but also stimulate the local economy and strengthen the strategic solidarity between our nations. Secondly, we agreed to enhance our joint military training to improve interoperability and foster conditions for regional peace and stability. Last year, a significant contingent of Korean armed forces participated in Exercise Talisman Sabre, yielding fruitful outcomes. This year, the Australian military took part in Korea’s Freedom Shield exercises, as a member of United Nations command, enhancing its capabilities for joint operations. We are committed to continuing these joint exercises in various forms and further elevating the level of cooperation between our armed forces. Thirdly, recognising the importance of building trust in our national defence and defence industry partnership, we agreed to expand human exchanges among defence related organisations. Republic of Korea and Australia, as key strategic partners in the Indo-Pacific region, share profound strategic views and interests. We will build on the achievements of today’s meeting and collaborate earnestly for the peace and stability of the Korean peninsula, Indo-Pacific region and the international community as a whole. Speaker: Questions? Journalist: South Korean Minister for National Defence, Shin Won-sik, there's been speculation about countries like South Korea joining the AUKUS Defence technology. Did you discuss this today? And does South Korea believe that it could engage in useful cooperation under Pillar Two of AUKUS? And Minister Marles, Hanwha has made a bid for Austal. Was this big discussion discussed in your meetings over recent days? And would such a bid likely be permitted under the new foreign investment framework being unveiled by the government today? Defence Minister Shin: [spoken in Korean] The Korean government, to enhance the regional peace, we support the AUKUS Pillar Two activities, and we do welcome that AUKUS members are considering Korea as the AUKUS Pillar Two partner. Korea's defence science and technology capabilities will contribute to the peace and stability of the development of AUKUS Pillar Two and the regional peace. And during today's meeting, we also discussed the possibility of partnering with AUKUS Pillar Two. Thank you. Deputy Prime Minister Marles: So, perhaps I might address both issues in relation to AUKUS Pillar Two. And we did discuss this both yesterday and today. AUKUS, as you know, is a technology-sharing agreement. It's not a security alliance. And Korea is obviously a country with deeply impressive technology, where we do have shared values, where we have strategic alignment, where we engage closely together. We already engage closely together in relation to technology. So, as AUKUS Pillar Two develops, I think there will be opportunities in the future, and we're seeing that play out in relation to Japan as well and we talked about that. In respect of Austal. Look, ultimately, this is a matter for Austal. They are a private company. From the government's perspective, we don't have any concern about Hanwha moving in this direction. We have identified Austal as a strategic shipbuilder for Australia in WA. Wherever Austal goes, whatever it does, there will obviously need to be security arrangements put in place in respect of sensitive technologies and intellectual property that would have to be managed no matter what the future of Austal. And were there anything that were to transpire in relation to Hanwa that would need to be managed in that context as well. But fundamentally, this is a matter for Austal as a private company. Journalist: And to Foreign Minister Wong. Australian officials have confirmed that India’s government was behind the nest of spies the Director General of Security described in 2021. Should Australians in the diaspora community be concerned about Indian government surveillance? And what message does the Australian government have to the Indian government about the acceptability of these activities and to Foreign Affairs Minister Cho Tae-Yul, the ABC has today reported South Korea is one of the friendly countries with a good relationship with Australia, which nonetheless engages in espionage here. Has there ever been a point of tension between the two countries, or are there clear shared understandings about the operation of intelligence agents in both countries? Foreign Minister Wong: Well, you would be unsurprised to hear me respond that we don't comment on intelligence matters. But at a level of principle about the democracy, I think you would have heard me and other Ministers on many occasions assert the importance of our democratic principles, assert the importance of ensuring that we maintain the resilience of our democracy, including in the face of any suggestion of foreign interference, and we have laws to deal with that. And to continue to say that we deeply value the multicultural fabric of the Australian community. It is a strength and we welcome people's continued engagement in our democracy. Foreign Minister Cho: [spoken in Korean] In regards to your question, I haven't heard anything and I am not sure against which context you are asking this question, so I have nothing to answer to that question. Journalist: Thank you. Minister Cho, you've both spoken today about the tensions across the Korean peninsula. These aren't always discussed when we're talking about issues like defence arrangements in the Pacific and the AUKUS deal as such. Why do you believe that close-knit ties with Australia in defence and these types of engagement is something that does have an impact on that relationship? Foreign Minister Cho: [spoken in Korean] Korea's security focuses on the North Korea's threat, but it's not the only focus. But as you can see, there's huge geopolitical changes taking place and the security in the Indo-Pacific region is closely linked to the security of other regions of the globe. So, we live in such a geopolitical era and Russia and North Korea are cooperating in the Ukraine war. And it shows that the Indo-Pacific region’s security is closely linked to the security of Europe as well. So, Korea's security is closely linked with Australia's security, and that's the world we live in. So, against the context of Indo-Pacific region and from the regional point of view, Australia and Korea share a lot of values and it's very good, not only in terms of economy, but also in security for our two countries to cooperate. So, in that context, we discussed the security partnerships between our two countries. Foreign Minister Wong: I might just add to that, if I may, Richard, that I think history shows us that what happens in the Korean peninsula matters to the security and stability of our region. We have no doubt that North Korea's destabilising, provocative, escalatory actions are contrary, are a threat to international peace and security, as well as to the peace and security of the ROK. We see it as very important that the international community exert and assert as much pressure as possible on the DPRK, including in relation to the regime of sanctions. And as Foreign Minister Cho has said, the actions of Russia in undermining that - those sanctions, in undermining the isolation of the DPRK, in participating in the provision of materiel, in contravention of UN resolutions and sanctions, is destabilising and undermines peace and security for the whole of the globe. And so I think it is important for us to continue not only to express solidarity with the Republic of Korea in the face of this aggression but also to call out Russia's behaviour as irresponsible and destabilising. Journalist: And Minister Wong, you touched on the reports of espionage before - Foreign Minister Wong: No, I was asked about them and I said we don't comment on intelligence matters. Journalist: Sure, I understand that that's the general principle on these matters, but given Australia's close-knit ties with India in the situation of the Quad, as a general principle, could I ask you, do you believe Australia would feel empowered enough to be forthright in raising concerns of these nations with the Indian government if they did it right? Foreign Minister Wong: Well, again, say we don't comment on intelligence matters, but as a matter of general principles, Australia remains consistent to our interests and to our values in all of our engagements. Speaker: Great. Thank you very much.

Diplomacy
President of Philippines Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr during press-conference

Saudi visit was successful and productive – PBBM

by Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.

Although the visit to Saudi Arabia was brief, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. said that it was a successful and productive one with various engagements accomplished to reaffirm the Philippines’ commitment to the partnership between the GCC and ASEAN countries, as well as to promote the country to prospect investors. In his arrival speech on Saturday following his visit to Riyadh, the President ticked off his accomplishments, mentioning the business-to-business agreements that would guarantee additional employment for Filipino workers. President Marcos described the ASEAN-GCC Summit held in Riyadh as a landmark event, adding that it was the first time that ASEAN and GCC Member States gathered together to discuss regional and international issues and on future cooperation. The six GCC member countries are Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates while Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam compose the ASEAN. “The Summit provided an opportunity to project the Philippines’ long-standing promotion of a rules-based international order, which is essential to the maintenance of peace, security, and stability in our regions which sit astride two of the most vibrant sea-lanes of trade and communications in the world,” President Marcos said. The President said that the Summit also provided an opportunity for the Philippines to secure a US$120-million Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that would establish a 500-person capacity training facility in the country to upskill Filipino workers in the construction industry. “The facility aims to train at least 3,000 Filipinos a year and more than 15,000 in the next 5 years, ready for deployment at any time,” President Marcos said. Another three business-to-business agreements were also discussed among Saudi and Philippine human resource companies “for the training and employment of Filipinos across a wide range of industries including healthcare; hotel, restaurant, and catering; and maintenance and operations, amongst other operations.” “These agreements are expected to generate more than USD 4.2 billion and additional 220,000 jobs for Filipinos over the next few years,” he said. President Marcos also reported resolving the outstanding bilateral issue with Kuwait at the sidelines of the Summit, including working out the lifting of the deployment ban of Filipino workers. “Now, that will end and we will now return to the normal state of affairs with the Kuwaiti government,” he said. The President said he also had the opportunity to meet with the Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, and he referred to their discussion as “very encouraging,” with anticipated capital investments pledged by the government of Saudi Arabia to the Philippines. “We exchanged views on issues of common concern to our two countries, and I expressed hope that we can sustain the momentum of high-level exchanges as we expand cooperation in key areas of mutual benefit to our peoples,” President Marcos said. In his arrival speech, President Marcos reiterated his commitment to continue to advance the country’s interest and at the same time, expand the Philippines’ partnership with ally nations. “Let me assure you that we will continue to advance our national interests as we further expand our partnerships abroad,” Marcos said. In his speech during the Summit, President Marcos emphasized further cooperation in key areas including energy and food security and enhancement of logistic chains. He also called for safeguarding of rights and welfare of Filipino workers. President Marcos arrived at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City at 2:50 p.m. Saturday. PND

Diplomacy
North Korean President Kim Jong-un with Vladimir Putin

Russia-North Korea talks

by Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin and Chairman of State Affairs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Kim Jong-un held talks at the Vostochny Space Launch Centre. Following the talks with participation of the countries’ delegations, the two leaders held a one-on-one meeting. * * * President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Chairman, I am delighted to see you again and to welcome you to Russia. This time we are meeting at the Vostochny Cosmodrome, just as we agreed. We are proud of the way this sector is developing in Russia, and this is our new facility. I hope that it will be of interest to you and your colleagues. However, our meeting is taking place at a special time. The People’s Democratic Republic of Korea has recently celebrated the 75th anniversary of its founding, and we established diplomatic relations 75 years ago. I would like to remind you that our country was the first to recognise the sovereignty and independence of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. This year we mark 70 years since the end of the war for independence and the Korean people’s victory in that war. It is a landmark date because our country also helped our friends in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to fight for their independence. Of course, we need to talk about our economic cooperation, humanitarian issues and the situation in the region. There are many issues we will discuss. I would like to say that I am glad to see you. Thank for accepting our invitation to come to Russia. Welcome. Chairman of State Affairs of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea Kim Jong-un (retranslated): I express my gratitude to you for inviting us despite your being busy with state affairs. Our visit to Russia is taking place at a very important time. The Russian side is giving a warm welcome to the delegation from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. From the moment we arrived in Russia, we could feel the sincerity of our Russian friends. On behalf of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, I express my gratitude to you and to the people of the Russian Federation. I also thank you for paying so much attention to our visit to Russia. We have been able to see with our own eyes the present and the future of Russia as it builds itself as a space power. Right now, we are having a meeting at a very special moment, right in the heart of the space power which is Russia. As you mentioned, the Soviet Union played a major role in liberating our country and helping it become an independent state, and our friendship has deep roots. Currently, our relations with the Russian Federation are the top priority for our country. I am confident that our meeting will serve as another step in elevating our relations to a new level. As you have just mentioned, we have many issues pertaining to the development of our relations, including politics, the economy and culture, in order to contribute to the improvement of the well-being of our peoples. Russia is currently engaged in a sacred battle to defend its state sovereignty and security in the face of the hegemonic forces that oppose Russia. We are willing to continue to develop our relations. We have always supported and will continue to support every decision made by President Putin, as well as the decisions of the Russian Government. I also hope that we will always stand together in fighting imperialism and building a sovereign state. Once again, I express my gratitude to you for providing us with the opportunity to visit Russia and for paying so much attention to our visit. Vladimir Putin: Thank you. <…>

Diplomacy
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Denmark Lars Løkke Rasmussen

Speech of Danish Foreign Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen - We will pursue a clear-sighted and realistic China policy

by Lars Løkke Rasmussen

This week I travel to China for the first time as Danish foreign minister. I was there at the end of 2017. At that time, I was prime minister and Xi Jinping had been president for four years. It was clear that there were major political changes underway in China - but also that there was still a desire for engagement and cooperation with the outside world. Here, six years later, the picture is different. China continues to pursue its interests in the world. But now with greater assertiveness and more muscle, and China is trying more directly to change the world order as we know it to China's own advantage. And they go to great lengths to protect their political system from outside influence. We in the West are therefore forced to relate to China in a different way.  And that is exactly why I look forward to setting foot on Chinese soil again. Because even if we disagree politically on a number of things, not least in terms of values, China cannot be avoided. Neither economically nor politically. China is the world's largest economy when adjusted for purchasing power. China's GDP is on par with Europe's combined. China is now and in the coming years indispensable for the value chains of our business life. We also need China to solve the climate crisis. The country accounts for 30% of global emissions of greenhouse gases. Without China, we simply cannot achieve our climate ambitions. Just like China, it is a producer of many – indeed too many – of the technologies and raw materials that form a central part of our own green transition. Over the past many years, we in the West have become too dependent on China in several critical areas. There is no doubt about that. We have been somewhat naive for a long time. But we cannot react by decoupling ourselves from China now. It is simply not possible. We must be pragmatic idealists, as I call it, and pursue a committed, clear-sighted, and realistic China policy. This means, first of all, that we must free ourselves from critical dependencies. We must minimize our risk and become more resilient. In plain Danish, we in Denmark and Europe must be able to stand on our own two feet to a greater extent. The time when we perceived the whole world as one big factory is over. We must look after our supply chains at the seams. This applies to energy, critical raw materials, and technology. And then Denmark and the EU must pursue a more robust and strategic trade and industrial policy. Denmark, the EU, and our allies have significantly tightened their approach to China in recent years. It is wise and necessary. We must continue to address the challenges with China when it comes to interests, values and security with our partners and allies. The latter is important because Denmark cannot cope with Chinese power on its own. No European country can do that alone; for that, the size ratio is too unequal. Therefore, it is alpha and omega that we stand together in the EU on our approach to China in close dialogue with the USA and our allies in NATO. At the same time, pragmatic idealism means that we must not overrule. Driving from one ditch to another doesn't help. Europe must not become generally protectionist and we must cooperate with China on our common interests. My trip to Beijing and Shanghai has three purposes. Firstly, to agree a new Danish-Chinese work programme. Secondly, to open doors for Danish business so that they can deliver the green solutions the Chinese demand. And thirdly, to have an honest conversation with the Chinese government about our bilateral relations, about developments in the world and the things we see differently. There are many issues to discuss with China. Over the past 10 years, China has increased political control over its own population and suppression of fundamental freedoms. In Hong Kong, democracy and freedom of assembly and speech no longer exist. Uighurs are oppressed in Xinjiang. And in Tibet, a slow erosion of ethnic Tibetan culture and identity has long been underway. There is also the conflict over Taiwan. Half of all the world's containers are sailed through the Taiwan Strait, so the relationship across the strait has consequences for the whole world. Also, for the EU and Denmark. We emphasize that the conflict is resolved peacefully without violence, threats, or coercion. Like the USA and most other countries, Denmark pursues a one-China policy. This does not change the fact that we have strong economic and cultural ties to Taiwan. And many Danes have – like me – sympathy for the democratic governance reform that has been chosen in Taiwan. In light of Russia's aggression against Ukraine, it is also clear that China's close partnership with Russia is worrying. China has neither condemned the invasion nor demanded that Ukraine's full territorial integrity be restored, just as China is helping to spread Russian disinformation. In return, China has emphasized that it will not support Russia's aggression militarily. It is an important commitment and signal, and we must take them at their word. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China has a special responsibility to engage actively in the peace dialogue to end the war in Ukraine. We look at many things differently. When it comes to human rights, we must continue to hold China to international obligations. At the same time, the trade and climate conditions are such that we have to cooperate in those areas. Our current work program with China expired in 2020, so it is long overdue for renewal. Several have argued that Denmark should end the cooperation. I don't think that would be in Denmark's interest. At the same time, it would be a significant and wrong political signal not to renew it at all. But we have known for a long time that the program should look different. It used to be quite broad – even too broad, in retrospect. The new program must be more focused. We will cooperate with China on climate, green energy, environment, sustainable food production, green shipping, and health. For example, we can help China reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. It is good for both the climate and for Danish exports. It is important for us to focus the cooperation on the green areas in particular. If we only want to cooperate and talk with those we completely agree with, then I wouldn't have many places to go as Secretary of State. And that would not be good for either the economy or the climate. And not good for the overall political situation either. China is constantly seeking cooperation with countries around the world. They have global ambitions. They are not only asserting their influence in Asia, but also in Africa and Latin America. They offer themselves as partners in very specific ways without demands for democracy and human rights. Construction of highways and railways. Expansions of airports. Mining. China has invested billions of dollars in major construction projects across the African continent and created a huge debt burden. That kind of counts. Also, when it comes to votes in the UN. We in the West have to deal with that. Considered and strategic. We must strengthen existing partnerships and build new alliances based on equality and respect. We need to think more about building relationships. Education. Research. Exchange. We must also be present out there – in Africa, Asia, and Latin America – with offers for concrete collaborations. And get off the moral high horse a little. China's changed face could perhaps be glimpsed in 2017, when I was in China last. Now the challenge is clear to everyone. We must be critical of a number of China's global ambitions and their political system at the same time as we cooperate on trade and climate. This requires a committed, clear-sighted, and realistic China policy.

Diplomacy
Russian President Vladimir Putin with China's Vice Premier Zhang Guoqing during Eastern Economic Forum

Meeting with the Deputy Premier of the State Council of China, Zhang Guoqing

by Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin met with Vice Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China Zhang Guoqing. President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Zhang Guoqing, friends, I am very pleased to see you and to welcome you to Russia, to Vladivostok. China has traditionally participated in this forum for many years now. I had the pleasure of welcoming the President of the People's Republic of China to it. He participated in person, spoke here, and then took part in the forum in the videoconference format. I would like to take this opportunity to ask you to convey my best wishes to the President of the People's Republic of China, with whom I have friendly work-related and personal relations. This certainly helps promote bilateral relations and ties between our countries. We know you well as a very business-like person. You headed a major company and now engage in matter of industry. As far as I know, you have already had the chance to meet with your counterparts, deputy prime ministers [Yury] Trutnev and [Denis] Manturov. The latter is in charge of the industrial block in the Government. I would like to note that thanks primarily to the efforts of our governments and business circles, Russia-China relations in this area – the area of economic cooperation – have reached a very high level. Of course, this is a derivative of what has been achieved in the political sphere, but nevertheless the results are more than good, they are excellent, and every year our trade grows by almost one third. This year, too, over the first seven months of it, the trade is up by about the same amount, I think, 24 percent – to as much as 120 billion. The goal President Xi Jinping and I have set – to reach the US$200 billion mark in trade – can be achieved very soon, already this year. I am confident that our relations will keep the current pace. We are glad to welcome you, and I would like to thank you for your decision to come and take part in the Eastern Economic Forum. Welcome. Vice Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China Zhang Guoqing (retranslated): Thank you, Mr President, for the opportunity to meet with you. First of all, I would like to pass on to you sincere regards and best wishes from President Xi Jinping. We also wish to offer heartfelt congratulations on the successful organisation of the 8th Eastern Economic Forum. Under the strategic direction of President Xi Jinping and President Vladimir Putin, China and Russia have deepened their overarching partnership and strategic cooperation in this new era. Our relations have maintained a consistently high dynamic. As you rightly noted, our countries have provided resolute mutual support in matters concerning our key interests. We are deepening political cooperation and trust and multiplying our mutual interests, bringing our nations closer. Our multi-dimensional practical cooperation is moving forward progressively, and the range of our bilateral cooperation is constantly expanding. Mr President, you noted the volume of our trade for the first seven months of this year, but in the first eight months of this year, the bilateral turnover reached US$155.1 billion, which is 32 percent higher year-on-year. We have every reason to believe that the goal set at the highest level, to reach US$200 billion in bilateral trade, will be achieved earlier than the end of the year. Last March, President Xi Jinping made a successful state visit to Russia, during which a new large-scale plan for developing China-Russia relations was outlined and new guidelines were set. Currently, the Chinese nation, under the true leadership of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, centred around comrade Xi Jinping, is promoting the comprehensive Chinese modernisation focused on high-quality development. We are ready to share development opportunities and deepen mutually beneficial cooperation with our Russian colleagues. Vladimir Putin: We highly value and appreciate the fact that, as you mentioned, the President of China made his first foreign visit after his re-election to Russia. This indicates that the relations between Russia and China have reached an unprecedented and historic level in the past few years. As you said, we will continue working together.