Senior officials from Russia and China have agreed to carry out more joint military exercises and enhance defense cooperation, according to statements on Monday, signaling that whatever misgivings Beijing may have over the war in Ukraine, the nations’ strategic partnership was only growing closer.
Nikolai P. Patrushev, the leader of Russia’s Security Council, and China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, held a meeting in southeastern Fujian Province where they agreed to conduct more joint military drills and patrols and to strengthen coordination between their countries’ defense officials, according to the Russian agency’s statement.
“The two countries continue to deepen strategic coordination, always firmly support each other on issues concerning each other’s core interests and major concerns,” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a summary of the meeting.
The visit came days after President Vladimir V. Putin met in Uzbekistan with Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader, and acknowledged afterward that China had “questions and concerns” about the situation in Ukraine. That cryptic admission prompted some analysts to conclude that despite public pronouncements that the nations’ friendship had “no limits,” Mr. Xi’s support for Mr. Putin was not unconditional.
Though Mr. Xi did not publicly refer to the situation in Ukraine during the meeting in Uzbekistan, he said that China was “willing to work with Russia to demonstrate the responsibility of a major country, play a leading role and inject stability into a turbulent world,” according to a Chinese government statement. Some experts said the statement sounded like a rebuke to Moscow for creating instability with its invasion.
Neither side pointed to any such differences following the meeting between top officials on Monday.
Mr. Yang emphasized the relationship between Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin, adding, “The leadership of the heads of state is the fundamental guarantee for the stability and long-term vitality of bilateral relations.”
Speaking in Fujian, Mr. Patrushev said, “The cooperation between Russia and China in the security field has deep historic roots.”
“In the current conditions, our countries must express an even better readiness for mutual support and development of cooperation,” said Mr. Patrushev, according to Interfax, a Russian news agency. Mr. Patrushev also met with Wang Xiaohong, a senior Chinese security official.
Mr. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has complicated China’s balancing act between Russia and the West. China has provided a lifeline to Russia, largely mitigating the effect of Western sanctions that have curtailed Russia’s energy exports and halted its industrial cooperation with developed countries.
This year, trade between Russia and China has increased by more than a quarter, and China agreed to work on a major gas pipeline project via Mongolia that could offset Russia’s cutoff from the European energy market.
At the same time, however, China has been careful not to run afoul of its Western trading partners. It has not shipped weapons to Russia, which has instead turned to suppliers including Iran and North Korea, according to U.S. officials, and it has done little to help Moscow circumvent sanctions that prevent it from importing advanced Western technology.
Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, said that Russian and Chinese officials would coordinate closely at the United Nations General Assembly in New York this week.