Medvedev goes to Kazakh, China on his first foreign trip as Pres

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Moscow, May 22 (UNI) Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is arriving today in Kazakhstan on the first leg of his first foreign trip after assuming presidency earlier this month.

Mr Medvedev will fly to China from Kazakhstan. His visit to these Asian countries was considered as a crucial part of Russia's East-looking policy.

He was expected to discuss space exploration and military cooperation with his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev today and tomorrow.

Mr Medvedev's visit to Kazakhstan ''reaffirms the maturity of the Russian-Kazakh strategic partnership,'' Russian presidential aide Sergei Prikhodko told Russian news agencies.

Mr Prikhodko said the two-day talks will see an ''exchange of views'' on the use of the Baikonur space centre, which Russia leases from Kazakhstan, and cooperation in the use and development of the Glonass navigation system.

During the talks, Mr Medvedev and Mr Nazarbayev were expected to discuss exploration of the Caspian Sea's resources and a strengthening of economic ties that saw bilateral trade exceed 16.5 billion dollars last year, he added.

The agenda for the talks will also include joint military cooperation, in particular the modernisation of Kazakhstan's armed forces.

''They are modernising their air defence and are showing an interest in Russian air defence systems,'' a Kremlin source told RIA Novosti.

Among the international issues, the two Presidents will discuss cooperation in the framework of Eurasec, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

A ''substantial package'' of bilateral agreements was due to be signed after the talks, Mr Prikhodko said.

During Mr Medvedev's two-day visit to China-- tomorrow and on Sunday-- the countries will sign a number of documents, including a joint declaration on key international issues.

He earlier visited China in his capacity as the first Deputy Prime Minister.

Mr Medvedev will have several meetings with Chinese President Hu Jintao this time.

Russia and China will continue their high-level contacts during the G-8 summit in Japan this year.

The trade and economic relations between the two countries were booming. The bilateral trade reached 48.2 billion dollars in 2007, with Chinese exports to Russia doubling over the last four years as Russian exports fell slightly, Russia's trade mission in Beijing said.

The two countries also recently held large-scale joint military exercises, in a sign of increasing military-technical cooperation.

UNI XC SKB ND1732

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