CO-OPERATION between Russia and China is at an all-time high, Russian president Vladmir Putin told his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping.

Putin spoke ahead of a summit in Beijing featuring the two countries and six Asian states.

The Russian leader said: “Co-operation with China is one of Russia’s top priorities and it has reached an unprecedented level.”

Xi said the two countries have “always firmly taken the development of relations as a priority direction”.

They have “resolutely supported the other’s core interests ... and jointly, proactively participated in international affairs and global governance,” Xi added.

Russia and China have responded to the US national security strategy which describes them as America’s top adversaries by vowing to further expand their economic, political and military co-operation.

They have also sought to strengthen the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation, a regional grouping they created, which meets this weekend.

Further underlining the relationship’s importance, the visit comes just a month since Putin began his new term in office.

He and Xi have met 25 times – five times in 2017 alone, Russian foreign affairs advisor Yuri Ushakov said.

Following a formal welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in central Beijing, Putin spoke with China’s premier Li Keqiang, telling him that Russia-China trade and economic ties have “gained a good tempo, and we are looking for new spheres of co-operation”.

Li said bilateral trade is expected to reach $100 billion (£74 billion) this year and voiced a readiness to expand co-operation in both traditional and new spheres, including nuclear energy.

Bilateral trade shrank from nearly $100bn in 2014 to some $60bn the following year due to a sharp depreciation of the Russian currency. It has since partly recovered as the rouble has strengthened, reaching nearly $90bn last year.

Russia has also increasingly turned to China as a market for its energy exports and a source of investment in infrastructure projects.