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Russia, China to promote ruble, yuan use in trade

 Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, right, shakes hands with Chinese President Hu Jintao in the Ural mountain city of Yekaterinburg, Russia, Monday, J...

Russia Summit Talks

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, right, shakes hands with Chinese President Hu Jintao in the Ural mountain city of Yekaterinburg, Russia, Monday, J...

The leaders of Russia and China agreed to expand use of the ruble and yuan in bilateral trade to lessen dependence on the U.S. dollar a day after they took part in the first summit of the so-called BRIC countries.

“We agreed to take further steps in this direction, including, perhaps, by adjusting contracts and laws that already exist,” Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told reporters in the Kremlin Wednesday after talks with his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao.

Russia, the world’s biggest energy supplier, wants to start selling oil to China in rubles, said Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, who is also chairman of OAO Rosneft, Russia’s biggest oil company. Energy sales in rubles are a “strategic” issue for Russia, he said, adding that oil exports to China over the next 20 years will surpass $100 billion.

Brazil, Russia, India and China agreed Tuesday to push for more clout in global financial institutions during what Medvedev called BRIC’s “historic” first summit in the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg. China and Russia have called for a more diversified financial system to give emerging economies a bigger say in economic affairs, including the creation of alternatives to the U.S. dollar as a reserve currency.

“Expanding the use of national currencies in mutual settlements is a separate, important task,” Medvedev said. China has the world’s biggest foreign-currency reserves, almost $2 trillion, while Russia is third with more than $400 billion.

Total trade between the neighboring countries reached a record $56.8 billion last year, according to the Kremlin.

After today’s Moscow meeting, Russia and China signed an agreement worth $3 billion to cooperate in trade and investment in areas including light industries, high technology and energy.

Russia and China also urged North Korea to return to the negotiating table on the fate of its rogue nuclear programs — an unusual joint appeal from two Security Council members who have resisted more punitive U.S. measures against Pyongyang.

The appeal, which also expressed "serious concern" about tensions on Korean peninsula, came just hours after North Korea warned of a "thousand-fold" military retaliation against the U.S. and its allies if provoked. The United States, meanwhile, called on Pyongyang to stop its saber-rattling and negotiate.

The fact that the Chinese and Russian leaders used their meetings in Moscow to jointly pressure North Korea appeared to be a signal that Moscow and Beijing are growing impatient with Pyongyang's stubbornness. Northeastern China and Russia's Far East both border North Korea and Pyongyang's unpredictable actions have raised concern in both countries.

And with both Washington and Pyongyang exchanging near daily rhetorical salvos, Russia and China appeared to be positioning themselves as moderators in the dispute.

After meetings at the Kremlin, Hu joined Medvedev in urging a peaceful resolution of the Korean standoff and the "swiftest renewal" of the now-frozen talks involving their countries as well as North and South Korea, Japan and the United States.

"Russia and China are ready to foster the lowering of tension in Northeast Asia and call for the continuation of efforts by all sides to resolve disagreements through peaceful means, through dialogue and consultations," the statement said.

The comments — contained in a lengthy statement that discussed a host of other global issues — included no new initiatives, but it appeared to be carefully worded to avoid provoking Pyongyang. In remarks after their meetings, Medvedev made only a brief reference to North Korea and Hu did not mention it.