RUSSIAN President Vladimir Putin arrived in Beijing yesterday for a visit that China said it would use to press for increased access to Russia's oil and gas resources.
China also plans to sign an agreement during Mr Putin's visit endorsing Russia's bid for World Trade Organisation membership, said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue.
Beijing is looking to Russia as a key supplier to alleviate energy shortages in China's booming economy.
Imports of Russian crude oil jumped 73 per cent last year to 5.25 million tons - 36.7 million barrels.
But Chinese leaders have been frustrated by Russia's failure to commit itself to building a long-planned pipeline that could carry Siberian crude to China's north-east and is alarmed at the recent cessation of supplies from troubled Russian oil giant Yukos.
Ms Zhang noted that China and Russia had signed tentative agreements during Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's trip to Moscow last month promising to expand Russian oil shipments to China by rail, to jointly explore for Russian oil and gas and to try to settle the proposed pipeline route.
"We will use President Putin's visit to have more exchanges on these fields," Ms Zhang said.
Chinese President Hu Jintao greeted Mr Putin at the Zhongnanhai compound where Chinese leaders live in central Beijing.
Later, Mr Hu and Mr Putin met at the Great Hall of the People, the seat of China's legislature.
They are expected to sign agreements on political, economic and diplomatic co-operation.
One document will "clearly express China's support" for Russian membership in the WTO, the global free-trading group that Beijing joined in 2001, according to Ms Zhang.
"We support Russia's entering the WTO and becoming a full member as soon as possible," she said.
China and Japan are pushing competing proposals for a US$2.5 billion pipeline to move Siberian oil to the Far East.
Beijing wants the pipeline to reach the north-eastern Chinese city of Daqing, the centre of China's oil industry.
But the Japanese proposal would bypass China, routing the pipeline to Russia's Pacific port of Nakhodka to facilitate shipments to Japan.
Mr Putin's visit coincides with the 55th anniversary of the two countries' diplomatic relations, highlighting their evolution from cold-war rivalry to friendly co-operation.
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