Putin hails 'close friend' Xi as Russia assures Taiwan will return to China 'on schedule'

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Vladimir Putin claimed on Thursday that relations with Chinese President Xi Jinping were at an “unprecedented level”, even referring to China’s leader as a “close friend”. This comes as Igor Sechin, chief executive of Russian oil giant Rosneft, said Taiwan would return to its “native harbour”, sparking concern over Russian support of China’s claim to the island.

Beijing views Taiwan as part of its sovereign territory, however the island has claimed independence from China for decades.

Mr Sechin also praised the recent 20th Chinese Communist Party Congress, which saw Xi become the most powerful leader since Mao Zedong and the removal of all voices of opposition from the Government.

It is now feared there is no one left in the country to prevent a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

Mr Sechin told an international economic forum in the Azerbaijani capital Baku: “The position of (China’s) leadership is highly respected, which calmly and openly, without false premises, sets out its positions, even on the most difficult issues, such as the problem of Taiwan, which in this regard can be assessed as somewhat exaggerated.”

He also slammed the US for building up its microchip industry as a sign that “Taiwan’s return to its native harbour” was “on schedule”.

The US has been going to great lengths to stop Chinese manufacturing of cutting edge microchips, particularly versions that are crucial for AI and defence systems.

The Taiwanese Foreign Ministry condemned the comments, arguing that only the island’s people could decide their own future.

READ MORE: Ranting Putin says West aims to ‘wipe Russia off the map’

Russia has firmly backed China in the disagreement, warning President Joe Biden to avoid meddling in Beijing’s affairs.

United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken has accused China of disrupting a decades-old understanding between Beijing and Washington over the escalating situation in Taiwan.

Speaking on Wednesday, Mr Blinken acknowledged the “status quo” between the two nations had “fundamentally changed” after China “wanted to speed up the process by which they would pursue reunification”.

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