- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 22, 2008

BEIJING | China and Russia signed an agreement Monday to end a long-running dispute over the demarcation of their eastern border, the scene of military clashes between the once-bitter Communist rivals.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov signed the agreement with his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi, but no details were immediately released on how the border issues were resolved.

“From a legal point of view we have created the preconditions for the border to become a link of stability, openness, mutual benefit, friendship and cooperation,” Mr. Lavrov said.

The tug-of-war over the eastern part of their 2,700-mile border goes back centuries to their competition for territory as imperial China and Czarist Russia expanded toward each other.

The struggle resulted in violent clashes in the 1960s and ‘70s when strained relations were at their most acrimonious, feeding fears abroad that the conflict could erupt into nuclear war.

The China Daily newspaper reported that Russia will return Yinlong Island (known as Tarabarov Island in Russian) and half of Heixiazi Island (Bolshoi Ussuriysky) to China. The 67 square miles of territory are on China’s northeast border with Russia.

Former Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a border agreement with China in 2004. But it is not clear how far that accord went to resolve the dispute over the stretch of river and islands along China’s northeastern border with Russia’s Far East.

China and Russia were bitter rivals during the Cold War, but their ties have warmed considerably in recent years, partly from a mutual desire to counter U.S. influence in world affairs.

Beijing is also eager to secure access to Russia’s oil and gas deposits, and has been a major buyer of Russian military hardware.

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