Russian President Vladimir Putin will take part in an upcoming two-day international forum in Beijing on China's signature Belt and Road infrastructure initiative and hold talks with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, Russia's Tass news agency and the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Monday.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who arrived in the Chinese capital earlier in the day ahead of the forum starting Tuesday, said in a meeting with Chinese top diplomat Wang Yi that Putin and Xi will discuss "every aspect of bilateral relations" at their upcoming talks, according to the Tass report.
It will be Putin's first visit to China since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February last year. The two leaders are also expected to talk about the fierce conflict between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas.
The forum on the global infrastructure initiative is expected to draw representatives from over 140 countries, with the leaders of countries such as Cambodia, Chile, Ethiopia, Hungary and Kenya arriving in Beijing on Monday, according to China's official Xinhua News Agency.
In an interview with state-run China Media Group held ahead of his China visit, Putin lauded the Belt and Road initiative, which marks its 10th anniversary this year, saying it is "developing well" with a focus on uniting the capabilities of many countries to achieve common development goals.
Putin said some people consider the initiative as an attempt by China "to put someone under its thumb, but we see otherwise," adding "no one imposes anything on anyone, no one forces anything on anyone, but only gives them opportunity."
Critics of Xi's mega infrastructure project often point out the scheme has drawn recipient nations into a Chinese debt trap, with developing countries saddled with huge debts that allow Beijing to leverage control over them.
Japan is not a member of the Belt and Road initiative and will not send any government representatives to the forum. Italy, the only Group of Seven major industrial nation to be part of the project, reportedly intends to exit the scheme as it has not reaped the economic benefits it expected through joining.
Meanwhile, Pyongyang said Monday that Lavrov will pay a two-day official visit to North Korea from Wednesday. His trip follows summit talks between Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last month in Russia's Far East, during which is thought they discussed military cooperation.