- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 3, 2002

BEIJING The Russian and Chinese presidents appealed yesterday for renewed contact between the United States and North Korea, urging both nations to stick to a 1994 agreement for the North to give up its nuclear program in exchange for energy aid.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Jiang Zemin made the appeal in a wide-ranging declaration issued on the first day of a visit to Beijing by Mr. Putin.
The statement also pledged support for each other's struggle with Muslim separatists and called for a peaceful resolution of the Iraq dispute, possibly putting the two nations at odds with the United States.
On North Korea, the two leaders also called for a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.
The declaration called for "normalization of relations" between Washington and Pyongyang, but didn't say whether that meant full diplomatic relations. Washington and the isolated, impoverished North have never had formal diplomatic ties.
But the two leaders did stress the "extreme importance" of U.S.-North Korean relations "on the basis of adherence to agreements already reached, including the framework agreement of 1994."
Pyongyang declared the 1994 pact had collapsed after a U.S.-led decision to suspend fuel oil supplies to the communist country. The United States and its allies made the move to punish the North for a new nuclear weapons program, which they said violated the 1994 deal.
Mr. Putin's two-day visit to Beijing is aimed at boosting political and economic ties with China.
It also lets the Russian president size up new Chinese leaders installed at a Communist Party congress last month. He was scheduled to meet Vice President Hu Jintao, who replaced Jiang last month as party leader and is expected to become president in March. He also was to meet Premier Zhu Rongji and Li Peng, chairman of China's legislature.
Besides North Korea and trade, topics for talks include Iraq and terrorism, according to Russian officials.
"We're absolutely certain that the special strategic relationship between Russia and China will not only enable us to solve the problems facing our countries, but also will create the basis for stability in the world," Mr. Putin said at a signing ceremony for the joint declaration.
Mr. Putin and Mr. Jiang signed a treaty of friendship and cooperation in June 2001, ending five decades of estrangement. The move was prompted by mutual concern about U.S. dominance in world affairs after the end of the Cold War.
Their 13-page declaration Monday pledged mutual support for Russia's struggle to crush separatists in Chechnya and Beijing's fight with separatists in its Muslim northwest.
The statement echoed their frustration at foreign criticism of their tactics, complaining of a "policy of double standards" on human rights by other governments. It rejected "the use of human rights questions as a lever for pressure in international relations."
Trade between the two sides totaled $10.7 billion in 2001 and is expected to top $11 billion this year, but Russian authorities say that is well below potential for two giant nations that share a 2,630-mile-long border.
A multibillion-dollar pipeline to deliver Russian oil to China's surging economy is under discussion, but it wasn't clear whether a final agreement would be signed during the Putin visit.
Mr. Putin is to meet with university students and visit a section of the Great Wall outside Beijing today before leaving for India.

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