China's Xi wants strong military ties with Russia

MOSCOW (AP) - The new Chinese president met with Russia's military leaders to reinforce the main message of his trip that the two countries must work together more closely if they want to counter rising US influence in Asia.

Xi Jinping said his visit to the Defense Ministry on Saturday was intended to show that China and Russia will strengthen their military and political relations and improve cooperation between their armed forces.

Russia's state media stressed that Xi was the first foreign leader ever to be allowed inside the Russian armed forces' Operational Command Center.

He began his trip to Russia - his first outside of China since becoming president last week - by holding talks in the Kremlin on Friday with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Xi pointedly told Putin that he expected Russia and China to "resolutely back each other's efforts to protect sovereignty, security and developmental interests."

Xi repeated the message in a speech Saturday to Russian and Chinese students.

"Strong high-level Chinese-Russian ties not only meet our interests, but serve as an important, reliable guarantee of international strategic balance and peace," Xi said in his speech before a full auditorium at the prestigious Moscow State Institute for International Relations.

Chinese students studying at other Moscow universities were among those in the audience.

Under the leadership of Xi, who became Communist Party chief in November, China has stepped up its feud with Japan over a set of disputed islands believed to sit atop petroleum reserves.

Xi told the students on Saturday that China rejects an arms race and is not making any threats of war.

"The development and growth of China brings to other countries not threats but opportunities," he said. "The fulfillment of the Chinese dream will be good for China and for the whole world."

The Chinese president spoke of a need for Beijing and Moscow to stand together to "uphold the principles of the UN charter," seemingly referring to their steadfast opposition to U.N. sanctions against Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime.

After the Kremlin talks, Russian and Chinese officials signed agreements on deliveries of Russian oil and gas to China, which has been eager to secure greater supplies from the world's biggest energy producer.

China also has shown renewed interest in buying Russian weapons after its own attempts to build up its arms industry fell short of expectations.

Russia's defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, who met with Xi on Saturday, said he would hold talks on Sunday with his Chinese counterpart.

Xi told Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev during their meeting on Saturday that he had achieved his goals in visiting Russia and the results had far exceeded his expectations.