President Hu Jintao and his Kazakh counterpart, Nursultan Nazarbayev, inspect an honor guard during an official welcoming ceremony in Astana, capital of Kazakhstan, on Monday. [Photo/Xinhua]
ASTANA - China and its biggest Central Asian neighbor strengthened their political and economic relationship on Monday by boosting cooperation across a wide range of key sectors.
A joint declaration, issued by visiting President Hu Jintao and his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev, addresses issues in the political, economic, energy and transportation sectors, which Nazarbayev said "covers all key aspects in bilateral ties, and broadens the scope of cooperation and future development".
Under the declaration, which aims to update the existing strategic partnership established in 2005, both countries vowed to "give priority to bilateral ties in each other's diplomatic strategy despite changes in the regional or global political landscape".
It also stressed that neither country should permit land to be used to harbor organizations or groups that would harm the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of the other.
Regular meetings between the premiers of the two countries were agreed to enhance cooperation.
Agreement was reached to double bilateral trade to $40 billion in 2015, and push for border trade to be settled in local currency.
In a ceremony presided over by Hu and Nazarbayev, the People's Bank of China signed a 7.5-billion-yuan ($1.15 billion) currency swap agreement with the state bank of Kazakhstan.
The agreement covers a period of three years and is extendable by mutual consent.
Energy cooperation was another key area of agreement. Both countries agreed to work to ensure the smooth construction of the second phase of the China-Kazakhstan natural gas pipeline.
Work on the second phase of the China-Kazakhstan oil pipeline, and the Kazakhstan section of the third phase of the China-Central Asia natural gas pipeline, was also given priority.
Agreement was also reached on environmental protection, particularly concerning water resources along the border, a sensitive issue in bilateral ties as some people in Kazakhstan have blamed water shortages on the misuse of the resource in the upper reaches.
Water resource facilities will be set up to boost environmental protection.
An industrial park and a super computer center will be set up in Kazakhstan under a joint venture.
Experts from the two countries will explore the feasibility of building a high-speed railway connecting Almaty, a major commercial hub, to the capital, Astana.
Analysts say the deals and declaration highlight the two nations' desire to form broader economic and security ties.
Feng Yujun, director of the Russian Studies Division at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said the declaration of "a comprehensive strategic partnership" signifies the importance of the relationship to each country.
Kazakhstan is an ideal partner in the region for China, and has significant influence, Feng said.
Kazakhstan chaired the 56-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in 2010 and currently holds the presidency of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
Ji Zhiye, Feng's colleague, added that given the situation in Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan, the development and stability of Kazakhstan is particularly important and China will help its neighbor maintain stability.
Feng also noted that the future focus of security cooperation between the two countries is to jointly tackle the situation in Afghanistan after 2014, when US troops return home.
He also noted that the two countries are exploring ways of cooperation in new areas, such as hydropower, agriculture, high-tech and finance.
During his stay in Astana on Tuesday and Wednesday, President Hu Jintao is also scheduled to meet other leaders of SCO and observer countries and attend the Astana SCO Summit, which marks the 10th anniversary of the founding of the bloc.
Qin Jize in Beijing contributed to this story.