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Russia, China Sign Friendship Treaty

Aspiring to forge a “new international order” and offset U.S. influence in the world, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Jiang Zemin signed the first post-Soviet friendship treaty between the two nations Monday, cementing their decade-long partnership.

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

The document comes at a time when the two giant countries are expressing mounting concern over American national missile defense plans and trying to attract more nations into their own orbit.

In a joint statement issued Monday, Putin and Jiang said they were hoping for a “just and rational new international order” to reflect their concept of a “multipolar” world led by the United Nations, rather than Washington.

Yet the treaty made it clear that the two countries had no immediate plans to form a closer alliance.

“The friendly relations of the two countries are interstate relations of a new type. They are ... not directed against third countries,” it said.

The treaty is the first such document since 1950, when Joseph Stalin and Mao Tse-tung created a Soviet-Chinese alliance that later soured into bitter rivalry by the 1960s.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Moscow and Beijing have put their disputes behind them and forged what they call a “strategic partnership.”

Jiang arrived Sunday 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, and met with outgoing IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch.

“We saw the jubilation of Beijing residents on television and we rejoiced together with you,” Putin told Jiang in the Kremlin.

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.

In their statement, the two sides stressed that they still viewed the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty as the “cornerstone of strategic stability,” which must be preserved. 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.

Russia and China say their “partnership” is not aimed against the United States, and according to Chinese officials, the new friendship treaty does not contain any secret articles like the military alliance between Stalin and Mao.

However, China hs 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. Analysts say Russia is in a position to help Beijing speed its military building by providing even more sophisticated weaponry.

Yet some analysts also point to contradictions and underlying tension in the Russian-Chinese relationship. The two nations' trade volume was dlrs 8 billion last year and dlrs 3.8 billion in January-May 2001 — dwarfed by Chinas' dlrs 115 billion annual trade with the United States. Russian energy companies and airline makers are losing ground in the Chinese market to Western competitors.

The joint statement Monday focused at length on future cooperation in the sphere of advanced technologies, space exploration and industries including electronics, telecommunications and nuclear energy production and called for Chinese companies to invest in Russia.

Some in Russia have voiced concern about Chinese migrants overrunning Russia's sparsely populated Far Eastern and Siberian regions bordering on China. When China and the Soviet Union were rivals, China raised territorial claims against Russia in the region, and since the Soviet collapse waves of Chinese migrants have settled there.

Putin and 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, Putin will visit China at an unspecified date in 2002, they said.

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