Prospects improve for Sino-Soviet summit

China announced yesterday that its foreign minister will visit Moscow this year for meetings that will help lead to a summit between the two communist powers. The statement, by Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Jin Guihua, marked the first time an official has publicly signaled progress toward a Sino-Soviet summit.

Peking says ``three obstacles'' still block normalization of ties, which have been estranged since the early 1960s. But recent statements by Chinese leaders and the planned visit - which would be the first such trip since 1956 - have brightened prospects for a summit.

China has said that Vietnam's occupation of Cambodia remains the biggest impediment. It has refused top-level meetings until Moscow urges Vietnam to withdraw.

Chinese leaders have spoken optimistically about the warming in Sino-Soviet relations since vice-foreign ministers for the two nations discussed the Cambodia issue in August. Peking has also welcomed movement on the other two obstacles which recently included the first stage of Moscow's troop withdrawals from Afghanistan and slight cuts in Soviet forces in Mongolia.

As progress on the Cambodia issue increases the likelihood of a summit, Peking will probably harden its position on all three issues to get as many concessions as possible,'' say Western diplomats here.

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