THE Chinese and Russian foreign ministers signed an agreement yesterday to put 20 Russian border checkpoints under Moscow's control, a move designed to curb the number of Chinese entering Russia.
The checkpoints had been under local government administration.
Chinese merchants have flocked to Russia since the 1991 Soviet collapse, flooding the market with everything from sweaters to stereo systems.
Russians, suffering through a tough transition to a market economy, have complained of unfair competition from other countries, and the government has said it will try to regulate trade more tightly.
The agreement was signed by Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev and his Chinese counterpart, Qian Qichen. Under the agreement, all border checkpoints are to be run by their respective central governments, but it was not clear if any Chinese checkpoints are to be affected.
In their talks, Mr. Kozyrev emphasized that developing relations with China is a priority of Russia's foreign policy and would not be affected by any changes in Russia's domestic politics.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman, Wu Jianmin, said that Kozyrev also reassured Mr. Qian that Russia's new military doctrine was entirely defensive, and reiterated Russia's adherence to the principle of mutual non-use of nuclear weapons.
Mr. Wu reported that both officials were also pleased with the development of bilateral trade and economic cooperation. According to Chinese statistics, Sino-Russian trade last year totaled more than $7 billion.
Kozyrev said Russia hopes to take part in large-scale projects with China, and mentioned China's massive Three Gorges Dam. Wu said Qian welcomed Russian bids for contracts for the building of one of the largest hydroelectric dam's.
The Russian official also said he wants Sino-Russian trade to move beyond small-scale business conducted on an individual basis to joint production and investment.
The two foreign ministers did not discuss military cooperation or specific projects during a 70-minute meeting also attended by aides, Wu added. He could not say if it was discussed during the ministers' hour-long private talks.