10/11/2011 10:38 EDT | Updated 12/11/2011 05:12 EST

Russia's Putin likens US to a parasite as he seeks closer ties with China

BEIJING, China - Russia and China have vowed to make progress on a long-delayed deal on gas sales, as Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sought to boost ties with Beijing while likening the U.S. to a parasite.

Putin and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao emerged from a half day of talks and formalities Tuesday pledging to resolve the dispute over the pricing of gas Russia plans to deliver by two Siberian pipelines. Putin was to meet Chinese President Hu Jintao on Wednesday, the second day of a two-day visit. So far deals struck included Chinese promises to invest $1.5 billion in a Siberian aluminum smelter and to put $1 billion into a joint investment fund.

"Those who sell always want to sell at a higher price, while those who buy want to buy at a lower price. We need to reach a compromise which will satisfy both sides," Putin told reporters.

In an interview later with Chinese state media, Putin played up co-operation with China and lashed out at the U.S., describing the dominance of the American dollar as parasitic.

"The U.S. is not a parasite for the world economy, but the U.S. dollar's monopoly is a parasite," Putin said, according to a report on the interview from Xinhua, the Chinese government news agency. Putin said he offered the criticism constructively in a search for common solutions to ease a roiling world economy.

Putin has frequently tried to use Russia's burgeoning ties with Beijing as a counterbalance to U.S. global predominance. And Chinese leaders have reciprocated the gestures. The Russian leader's trip to Beijing follows his recent announcement that he plans to swap jobs next year with President Dmitry Medvedev, returning him to the top position he held for eight years. Analysts have said that the transition could see Russia tilt further toward China.

Last week, the two countries squelched a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Syria for its brutal crackdown on pro-reform protesters that has killed nearly 3,000 people since March. Their vetoes drew heavy criticism from Washington.

Chinese Premier Wen told reporters that China wanted to push ahead a "comprehensive strategic partnership" with Russia that would safeguard world stability and development.

But even as they reach out to each other, strains are evident between Moscow and Beijing in the trade and security issues that have bolstered relations over the past decade. Moscow is unhappy with China's copying of Russian fighter jets and other military hardware and recently announced the arrest of a Chinese man accused of seeking to buy military secrets.

While trade is booming — rising, by China's count, to more than 39 per cent to $35.9 billion in the first half of the year from the same period last year — it's heavily geared toward Chinese purchases of Russian resources. Moscow wants more Chinese investment in Russia itself.

Efforts to complete the natural gas deal have plodded on, with Russia preferring to link gas prices to oil prices, as it does in Europe, and China wanting a lower price.

All told, Russian and Chinese officials say deals worth $7 billion are to be signed during Putin's visit, in fields including biotechnology and space exploration.