Chinese President Xi Jinping said Thursday he and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, agreed that a political settlement of the Ukraine crisis is the "right way forward," and that Beijing stands ready to play a constructive role in achieving this.

The two leaders called for preventing the crisis from getting out of control and stressed the importance of dialogue to settle the situation, according to a joint statement issued after their summit talks in Beijing. The statement was carried by the two countries' state-run media.

Xi said at a joint press conference with Putin that China hopes peace and stability will return to the European continent at an early date, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands in Beijing on May 16, 2024. (AP/Kyodo)

Putin expressed gratitude to Beijing for its proposals on settling the Ukraine situation during the news conference, according to Russia's Tass news agency. He has been on a two-day state visit to China through Friday.

China opposes Western sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine war. The United States and some European countries have expressed concern over Beijing's supply of items to Moscow that can be used for both civilian and military purposes.

The Russian leader also expressed opposition to forming closed military-political alliances in the Asia-Pacific region, according to Tass, apparently referring to U.S. efforts to deepen cooperation with regional partners. "We consider the creation of such alliances very harmful and counterproductive," he was quoted as saying.

The joint statement said the two countries oppose the "U.S. hegemonic behavior of changing the balance of power in Northeast Asia" by putting together military groups.

The document said they are against U.S. military provocation against North Korea, referring to joint drills conducted by Washington and its allies. It also said they firmly oppose the intervention of extra-regional forces in the South China Sea, where Beijing has been engaged in series of territorial rows with its neighbors.

The national flags of Russia (L) and China are hoisted outside Beijing's Tiananmen gate on May 16, 2024, to coincide with Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to China. (Kyodo) 

China and Russia said they will further deepen military cooperation by expanding the scale of joint exercises.

On Taiwan, a self-ruled island that Beijing regards as its own, Russia reaffirmed its opposition to the territory's independence in any form and supported China's bid to bring it into its fold, according to the statement.

The two countries also expressed "serious concern" about the ocean discharge of treated radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan and demanded Tokyo safely dispose of the "nuclear-contaminated" water in a responsible manner.

China and Russia have imposed a total ban on seafood imports from Japan since the water release began in August last year.

The two leaders signed the joint statement on a deepening bilateral "comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for the new era" as their countries mark the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations this year, the Chinese ministry said.

Senior officials from the two countries signed 10 joint documents to boost cooperation in various areas, Tass added.

Putin arrived in Beijing earlier in the day, his first overseas trip since beginning his fifth term in office last week. Xi welcomed the Russian leader as his "old friend."

"Steady development of China-Russia relations is not only in the fundamental interests of the two countries and the two peoples but also conducive to peace, stability and prosperity of the region and the world at large," Xi said at the summit held in the Great Hall of the People, according to the Chinese ministry.

Tass quoted Putin as telling Xi at the meeting, "Our cooperation in world affairs today serves as one of the main stabilizing factors in the international arena."

Xi said Beijing is ready to work with Moscow to uphold fairness and justice in the world and that it is the "shared strategic choice" of both countries to "follow the general historical trend of multipolarity in the world and economic globalization," the Chinese ministry said.

Putin was also quoted as saying that Russia and China together uphold the principles of justice and a democratic world order that reflects multipolar realities and is based on international law. The leaders' remarks apparently referred to their opposition to the U.S.-led international order.

The Russian president added that the two countries have promoted practical cooperation and pointed out that Beijing is Moscow's main trade and economic partner. He said bilateral trade flows expanded as almost 90 percent of all payments between the two countries are made in their respective currencies.

Xi noted at the news conference that bilateral trade exceeded $240 billion last year, with the value increasing nearly 2.7 times compared with a decade ago, and stressed the need to further expand economic and trade cooperation.

China has increased its imports of items such as crude oil and liquefied natural gas from Russia, continuing to source energy from the neighboring country despite Western sanctions imposed on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.

Xi and Putin have so far met more than 40 times and stayed in close communication, according to the Chinese ministry.

Putin is being accompanied by a number of senior officials, including Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Defense Minister Andrey Belousov and Russian Security Council Secretary Sergey Shoigu, as well as business leaders, Tass said.

Later in the day, the Russian president also met with Chinese Premier Li Qiang. Putin will attend an expo showcasing companies from the two countries on Friday in Harbin in northeastern China's Heilongjiang Province, which borders Russia, the news agency said.

In March last year, Xi met with Putin in Moscow shortly after securing a norm-breaking third five-year term as president. Then, in October 2023, the Russian leader held talks with his Chinese counterpart during his visit to Beijing.

The two leaders reaffirmed in 2022 that the bilateral friendship has "no limits."

In an interview with China's official Xinhua News Agency, published before he arrived in Beijing, Putin said bilateral relations have "reached their highest level in history" and will continue to develop despite a challenging international environment.

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