Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, has arrived in Beijing for a two-day visit expected to focus on energy and trade.

Putin's visit from Tuesday will be his first foreign trip since revealing plans to reclaim Russia's presidency.

Russian officials have said the two sides plan to sign several agreements worth some $7bn and plans for a 30-year deal to supply Russian gas to China are expected to top talks between the two sides.

However, no deal is expected to be signed as the two sides have failed so far to agree on a price for the gas.

Moscow is also unhappy with China's illegal copying of Russian fighter jets and other military hardware, and recently publicised the arrest of a Chinese man accused of seeking to buy military secrets.

On the political front, Putin and Chinese leaders are expected to discuss the situation in Syria.

Russia wants to diversify its trade with China, which is likely to grow to $100bn in 2020 [AFP]

Last week, both China and Russia vetoed a Western-backed UN resolution threatening sanctions against Damascus if it failed to halt its crackdown on protesters.

Liu Weimin, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, said that during the visit, Wang Qishan, the vice-premier, would hold a fresh round of energy co-operation negotiations with Russian Igor Sechin, Russia's deputy prime minister.

The gas negotiations have been a reminder that, despite frequent professions of brotherly goodwill between Moscow and Beijing, relations are held back by mutual distrust extending back to the Cold War, when border disputes almost erupted in full-fledged war.

In Moscow, a senior government official said Putin had no plan to sign a gas pricing deal during his visit.

"The signing of the gas pricing deal is not planned at this point," Yuri Ushakov, the Russian government's deputy chief of staff, said on Tuesday.

Russia also wants to diversify its trade with China, which is expected to grow to $100bn in 2020 from $59.3bn in 2010.

Source: Agencies