Close Ties With China Promised

President Vladimir Putin promised China on Thursday that Moscow would maintain its strong ties with Beijing under his successor, Dmitry Medvedev.

Putin says relations with China are at a historic high, while Chinese leader Hu Jintao describes Putin as his "good friend."

"Putin and Hu Jintao exchanged sincere wishes of success in future work for the stable development of the two countries in the period after the election of the new Russian president," the Kremlin press office said in a statement.

"Putin underlined that the course of comprehensive development of Russian-Chinese strategic cooperation will be continued in the future," the Kremlin said.

The two leaders meet regularly, and Hu was one of the first world leaders to congratulate Medvedev after his March 2 election as president.

Medvedev, who will be sworn in as president in May, told visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday that he would seek continuity in foreign policy.

Russia is eager to boost exports of oil, gas and nuclear products to China, the world's second-biggest consumer of oil and power, though China's growing world clout is watched with some anxiety by Moscow's elite.

China, set to overtake Germany as the world's third-biggest economy, is Russia's second-biggest trading partner after the European Union with $35 billion in bilateral trade last year.