Russia, China denounce U.S. missile shield, call for cooperation

BEIJING - In a throwback to the early years of the Cold War, China and Russia joined Tuesday to condemn what they consider U.S. attempts to dominate the global order and pledged to stand together in defiance of American power.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart, Jiang Zemin, put their burgeoning partnership on display during a one-day summit in the Chinese capital. Among the five documents they and their aides signed at a public ceremony, two took aim at the United States, singling out the proposed national missile defense system.

The leaders' language was not confrontational, but they agreed to closer cooperation on international affairs and denounced the anti-missile shield. In a joint statement, they accused Washington of using the shield ''to seek unilateral military and security advantages that will pose the most grave, adverse consequences'' to China, Russia and the United States itself.

Putin and Jiang urged Washington to adhere to the 28-year-old Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which prohibits the missile defense system. Their statement warned that altering the treaty ''will trigger an arms race and lead to an about-face in the positive trend that appeared in world politics after the end of the Cold War.''

Washington argues that its proposed national shield is not aimed at China and Russia but at stopping missiles from North Korea and other smaller states hostile to U.S. interests. Putin and Jiang said ''the pretext of a missile threat is totally unjustified.''

They also criticized a U.S. proposal for a more limited anti-missile system to protect its troops and allies in East Asia, which Beijing fears would undermine its claim to Taiwan.

Defense Secretary William Cohen met with Jiang and other top Chinese officials in Beijing last week but reported making little headway in overcoming their objections to missile defense.

''The ones that we have to work on most assiduously are the China concerns,'' Undersecretary of State John D. Holum told reporters in Washington on Tuesday. ''It will take considerable work to demonstrate that this system isn't aimed at them.''

In the documents Jiang and Putin signed after almost three hours of closed-door meetings, they blasted ''hegemonism'' and attempts to interfere in countries' internal affairs. Those were thinly veiled attacks on NATO, U.S. bullying and last year's war on Yugoslavia, all of which have been roundly criticized in the past by the giant neighbors.

Jiang and Putin also issued a separate statement committing China and Russia to ''work together in the international arena to promote peace and stability in the world.'' Their aides signed agreements on banking and energy cooperation. One accord will see Russia build an experimental fast neutron reactor in China.

Tuesday's meeting was Jiang and Putin's second in three weeks, after a Central Asian summit.

After a 21-gun salute, Jiang squired Putin along a red carpet to review a military honor guard on Tiananmen Square. The presidents then met privately for two hours before their foreign and defense ministers and other officials joined them for formal talks.

Afterward, Jiang and Putin said their talks cemented already strong ties. Putin invited Jiang to visit Moscow next year.

''Our two countries presently share a common position on the global security balance,'' Putin was quoted saying by Russia's Interfax News Agency.

The common stance was a reminder the 1950s, when Mao Tse-tung's regime was Russia's ''little brother'' in the communist camp. They worked then to spread communism and fight what they labeled U.S. imperialism.

Beijing eventually chafed at playing second fiddle, and the two became bitter rivals in the later decades of the Cold War.

But now China has all but jettisoned its socialist economy, while Russia ditched communism a decade ago. The reduction of hostility between them and common concerns about American influence have brought them closer than at any time in more than three decades.

The new relationship is based on principles they hold in common. Those include nonintervention in nations' internal affairs, as well as the need for mutual support and cooperation on border issues and security, said Jia Qingguo, an expert in international relations at Peking University.

China and Russia will likely cooperate in developing technologies to defeat the U.S. missile shield if the United States presses ahead with it, although they are unlikely to enter into a military alliance, he said.

Despite their concerns, China and Russia can ill afford to alienate the United States.

Their economic fortunes largely depend on foreign investment, and that investment is aided by smooth relations with the West. And Beijing's large-scale purchases of Russian weapons aside, trade remains at low levels between China and Russia despite repeated promises by their leaders to boost economic ties.


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