- The Washington Times - Monday, July 16, 2001

MOSCOW Aspiring to forge a “new international order” and offset U.S. global influence, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese counterpart Jiang Zemin signed the first post-Soviet friendship treaty today, cementing their nations’ decade-long partnership.

“The friendship treaty will bring Russian-Chinese friendship from generation to generation,” Mr. Jiang said after the signing ceremony in the Kremlin. “This is a milestone in the development of Russian-Chinese relations.”

The document comes amid the two countries’ mounting concern over American missile defense plans and their attempts to attract more nations into their own orbit.

In a joint statement issued today, Mr. Putin and Mr. Jiang expressed hope for a “just and rational new international order” to reflect their concept of a “multipolar” world led by the United Nations, rather than Washington.

The treaty is the first such document since 1950, when Josef Stalin and Mao Tse-tung created a Soviet-Chinese alliance a friendship that had soured into a bitter rivalry by the 1960s. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Moscow and Beijing have put the strife behind them and forged what they call a “strategic partnership.”

Jiang arrived yesterday for a four-day visit on the heels of the International Olympic Committee decision at its Moscow meeting to award the 2008 Olympics to Beijing.

“We saw the jubilation of Beijing residents on television and we rejoiced together with you,” Mr. Putin told Mr. Jiang when they sat down for talks in the Kremlin.

Mr. Jiang’s visit also followed the United States’ successful test Saturday of a missile interceptor a step forward in Washington’s quest to build a missile defense system.

After the Kremlin meeting, Mr. Jiang met with former President Boris Yeltsin at his dacha outside Moscow.

Mr. Yeltsin congratulated the Chinese leader on the designation of Beijing to host the Olympics, the Interfax news agency reported. Mr. Jiang said he believed it was Mr. Yeltsin who made the current warm relationship between China and Russia possible.

In their statement, the two leaders reasserted their view of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty as the “cornerstone of strategic stability.” They also called for international talks that could curb missile proliferation and make space weapons-free.

Both Russia and China warn that the proposed American missile shield would upset the strategic balance and trigger a new global arms race. China’s concerns are potentially even stronger, because its nuclear arsenal is tiny compared to Russia’s and even a limited missile defense could erode its deterrent value.

The treaty emphasized that the two nations were not forming a military pact. “The military and military-technical cooperation between the two countries … is not directed against third countries,” it said.

In the treaty, Russia reiterated its support for the Chinese claim on Taiwan, which Beijing views as a renegade province. They split in the 1949 civil war.

“Russia acknowledges that there is only one China, the government of the People’s Republic of China is the only legitimate government representing all of China, and Taiwan is an inalienable part of China,” the treaty said. “Russia opposes any kind of independence for Taiwan.”

As part of its military buildup, China has already bought billions of dollars worth of Russian jets, submarines, missiles and destroyers during the 1990s, becoming the biggest customer for Russia’s ailing military industrial complex.

While arms sales boomed, other trade has grown slowly. The two nations’ overall trade volume was $8 billion last year and $3.8 billion in January-May 2001 dwarfed by China’s $115 billion annual trade with the United States. Russian energy companies and airline makers are losing ground in the Chinese market to Western competitors.

“We have a realistic view of the situation,” Mr. Putin said. “Russia accounts for just 2 percent in China’s trade, but that means that we have good prospects.”

The two leaders agreed to expand cooperation in the sphere of oil and gas, energy, aircraft building, communications and new technologies.

Despite the talk of partnership, some analysts have pointed to underlying tensions between Moscow and Beijing. Some in Russia have voiced concern about Chinese migrants overrunning Russia’s sparsely populated Far Eastern and Siberian regions, which China claimed during the Cold War.

Even now, Beijing continues to claim several islands on the Amur River that belong to Russia.

Mr. Putin and Mr. Jiang both tried to downplay the dispute, promising it would be resolved soon.

“I feel optimistic about solving these issues,” Mr. Jiang said. “We shall do all we can,” he added in Russian, smiling.

Mr. Putin and Mr. Jiang said the Russian-Chinese border from now on will become a border of “eternal peace” and pledged that the sides will jointly resolve “the questions left by history.”

To further advance bilateral ties, Mr. Putin accepted Mr. Jiang’s invitation to visit China at an unspecified date next year.

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