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International relations

Kazakhstan says China's Xi to visit, in 1st foreign trip since pandemic

Chinese leader reportedly considering more summits later this year

NUR-SULTAN (Reuters) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Kazakhstan on Sept. 14, the Kazakh Foreign Ministry said on Monday, in what would be his first foreign trip since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Xi will meet Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and sign a number of bilateral documents, ministry spokesman Aibek Smadiyarov told a briefing.

Beijing, which gives little advance notice of Xi's movements, has not confirmed a Kazakhstan visit by him, and China's Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Xi, who is expected to secure a precedent-breaking third leadership term at a congress of China's ruling Communist Party starting on Oct. 16, has not left China since the country all but shut its borders to international travel under its "zero-COVID" policy in 2020.

Kazakhstan has close ties with China, supplying minerals, metals and energy to its eastern neighbor and transshipping goods between China and Europe.

Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that Xi was considering a trip to Central Asia to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other leaders at a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization set for Sept. 15-16 in the Uzbek city of Samarkand.

Last month, a longtime adviser to the Indonesian president said that Xi and Putin will attend November's Group of 20 summit on the resort island of Bali.

Xi and Putin have grown increasingly close, and shortly before Russia's Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, Beijing and Moscow announced a "no limits" partnership.

Xi made his first trip outside of mainland China since early 2020 when he visited Hong Kong on June 30 to mark the 25th anniversary of its handover from British control.

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