China’s US-Sanctioned Defense Minister Visits Moscow, Hails a ‘New Era’ in Relations


Li Shangfu, a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) general who was sanctioned by the U.S. five years ago over weapons transactions with Russia, met with President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on Orthodox Easter Sunday.

( – China’s new defense minister, visiting Moscow on his first visit abroad since his appointment, says China-Russia relations have “entered a new era” and “surpass any military-political alliances of the Cold War.”

Li Shangfu, a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) general who was sanctioned by the U.S. five years ago over weapons transactions with Russia, met with President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on Orthodox Easter Sunday.

He told Putin he had chosen Moscow as the destination for his first overseas visit to “emphasize the special character and strategic importance of our bilateral relations.”

“In recent time, Russian-Chinese military-technical cooperation is developing very dynamically, the TASS state news agency quoted Li as saying. “This makes a contribution to global and regional security.”

Li’s three-day visit comes less than a month after President Xi Jinping made the trip, his first abroad since beginning an unprecedented third term. Putin said during that visit that Russia-China relations were “at the highest level in all our history,” and that he and Xi share “identical or very close” views on regional and international problems.

In late February, U.S. intelligence officials began warning that China was considering providing “lethal aid” to Russia for use in its war in Ukraine. The administration said if China did provide help of that kind, it would face “costs” and “consequences.”

Beijing denied having any such intention and has sought to present itself as a potential mediator, putting forward a set of proposals for a “political settlement” – but stopping short of calling on Russia to withdraw its troops from Ukrainian territory.

The U.S. has rejected China’s attempt to portray itself as a neutral party, noting it has never condemned the invasion but has given Moscow diplomatic and economic support in the face of Western efforts to isolate and punish Russia for its aggression.

In his remarks with Li, Putin referred to “active” military-to-military cooperation, including the exchange of “useful information” between the defense ministries, and the holding of joint exercises.

Russia’s defense ministry said that during the visit Li will discuss with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu “prospects for the development of bilateral cooperation in the defense sphere, as well as current issues of global and regional security.”

The Chinese defense ministry did not provide much detail, but said in a press release on the visit that in recent years, bilateral military-to-military relations have developed steadily, with new progress made “in strategic communication, joint exercises and training, and pragmatic cooperation.”

CIA Director William Burns said last week that while the China-Russia relationship was a significant one, it was not yet the “no-limits” partnership the two leaders declared when they met in Beijing weeks before the invasion of Ukraine.

“It’s turned out since then that there still are some limits to that friendship, in the sense that – to the best of our intelligence – Xi’s China has not yet provided weapons and ammunition to Russia which we know the Russians have been very much interested in acquiring from China,” he told a Baker Institute event in Houston.

Bristling against Western depictions of China-Russia military ties, the Chinese Communist Party paper Global Times said in an editorial Monday that the bilateral relationship “is no-alliance, no-confrontation and not targeting any third party.”

“Rather than seizing every opportunity to hype up issues when it comes to China-Russia cooperation, some Western media and politicians would do better to reflect on regional and global security issues and figure out who is the real instigator and major pusher of Russia-Ukraine conflict,” it said.

The U.S. sanctions against the new Chinese defense minister predated the invasion, but are linked in part to the Kremlin’s earlier intervention in Ukraine, specifically its annexation of Crimea in 2014.

The Trump administration sanctioned Li under the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act, an authority responding to a range of malign Russian actions, including the annexation of Crimea.

The measures, which include a U.S. visa ban, asset freeze, and prohibition on any transactions involving the U.S. financial system, were imposed for Li’s role in the purchase of Russian weapons including Su-35 fighter jets and S-400 surface-to-air missile system equipment.

Las Vegas News Magazine

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