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Chinese defence minister says trip to Russia signals countries’ ‘close ties’

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe review a honour guard prior to their talks in Moscow, Russia April 3, 2018. Vadim Savitsky/Russian Defence Ministry/Handout

China’s new defense minister says his visit to Russia is a signal to the United States about the increasingly close military ties between Moscow and Beijing.

The unusually bold statement Tuesday by Gen. Wei Fenghe reflected the growing military cooperation between the two former Communist rivals.

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Speaking in Moscow at the start of his talks with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Wei emphasized that he chose Russia for his first trip abroad since becoming the international face of China’s military last month to “show the world a high level of development of our bilateral relations and firm determination of our armed forces to strengthen strategic cooperation.”

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Wei added he would attend Wednesday’s security conference hosted by the Russian Defense Ministry to “let the Americans know about the close ties between the armed forces of China and Russia.”

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Shoigu said Wei’s visit “underlines a special character of relations between Russia and China,” adding that it will help further deepen ties between the two militaries.

Moscow and Beijing have forged what they described as a “strategic partnership,” expressing their shared opposition to the “unipolar” world — the term they use to describe perceived U.S. global domination.

As part of their burgeoning military cooperation, Moscow and Beijing have conducted joint military maneuvers, including exercises in the South China Sea and last summer’s joint navy drills in the Baltics.

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The Baltic exercise marked the first time that China had flexed its military muscle in a region where tensions between Russia and NATO have escalated following Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

In December, the Russian and Chinese militaries held missile defense drills intended to practice a joint response to missile threats from other countries.

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