- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 24, 2008

BEIJING (AP) — China and Russia yesterday jointly condemned a U.S. plan for a global missile defense system at the start of a highly symbolic visit by new Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

More specific than previous joint criticisms, the statement from Mr. Medvedev and Chinese President Hu Jintao objected to the installation of missile defense components in “some regions,” an apparent reference to former Soviet bloc countries where the U.S. plans to deploy components of the system.

“The creation of global missile defense systems and their deployment in some regions of the world … does not help to maintain strategic balance and stability and hampers international efforts in arms control and nuclear nonproliferation,” Mr. Hu and Mr. Medvedev said.

Mr. Medvedev’s choice of China as the main destination of his first foreign trip reflected the two nations’ increasing closeness in recent years as part of their efforts to counterbalance what they have called Washington’s global dominance.

When his predecessor, Vladimir Putin, went abroad for the first time as president in 2000, he traveled to London — via Belarus — with a message Russia wanted closer ties to the West.

China and Russia also signed a $1 billion nuclear cooperation deal that strengthens Russia’s role as a supplier to China’s fast-growing nuclear power industry. It calls for Russia to build a $500 million nuclear fuel enrichment plant and supply semi-enriched uranium worth at least $500 million.

Russia is looking to China as an important market for civilian nuclear technology as Beijing builds more nuclear power plants in an effort to curb rapid growth in use of fossil fuels.

“By visiting China on his first trip abroad since taking office, Mr. Medvedev has shown that he attaches a high level of importance to the development of bilateral ties,” Mr. Hu said. “I am sure this visit will give impetus to our strategic partnership and take it to a new level.”

In recent years, China and Russia have made highly symbolic political overtures to one another, holding joint military maneuvers and engaging in high-level talks on creating a “multipolar world.”

Mr. Putin greatly strengthened relations with China, reaching a long-delayed agreement on demarcation of the 2,700 mile border.

However, economic ties have lagged. Bilateral trade rose by about one-third last year to some $48 billion, but still accounts for only 2 percent of China’s global trade. China does more than eight times as much business with the United States.

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