China and Russia, once hostile neighbors, are finding common ground in opposing the US on several issues - especially American plans to build missile defense shields.
Chinese President Jiang Zemin and Russian President Vladimir Putin warned the United States on July 18 that the planned national missile defense (NMD) system threatened a new arms race.
"Implementing this plan will have the most grave adverse consequences not only to the national security of Russia, China and other countries, but also to the security and international strategic stability of the United States itself," they said in a joint statement
But diplomats said the statement revealed the two nations were not united on the issue. "When you get down to the nitty gritty, they are still two countries with distinct strategic interests," a diplomat said.
Nothing in the joint statement indicated that Russia was abandoning its position that it may be prepared to allow the 1972 Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty to be changed to let the US to build an NMD, he said.
"This still is a step short of ruling out that Russia might at some stage accept amendments to ABM," he said. "Russia doesn't want to foreclose that option."
It would be bitterly opposed by China, but Russia is thought to be open to minor ABM revisions in an effort to negotiate nuclear weapons cuts with the US to reduce Moscow's burden of keeping an expensive and unsafe arsenal.
Washington has proposed building an NMD system against missile attacks from "states of concern" such as North Korea, Iran and Iraq, and a theatre missile defense (TMD) system to shield its troops and allies in Asia.
China, widely thought to have provided missile technology to some of the states Washington is most worried about, has suggested ominously it would rethink previous nonproliferation pledges if the US goes ahead with the NMD.
China is even more vehemently opposed to a TMD system. Beijing fears it would cover Taiwan, which China regards as a rebel province and has threatened to invade if the island declares independence.
Russia supports China's position on Taiwan. "The incorporation of Taiwan into any foreign missile defense system is unacceptable and will seriously undermine regional stability," the statement said.
Despite the focus on the US, Jiang says what's evolving is "a new type of cooperative relationship which is not an alliance, not confrontational, and not aimed at any third country."
The coziness of ties between Mr. Jiang and Mr. Putin was underscored by closed-door talks which ran nearly double the allotted one hour.
Beijing and Moscow have found further common ground in opposition to international intervention in domestic conflicts on humanitarian grounds, for example over Kosovo last year.
Both countries are targets of Western criticism over their human rights records, especially in Chechnya and Tibet.
China is a key customer for Russian oil, natural gas and arms while Russia wants better access to China's huge market.
Xinhua News Agency reports that trade between the two rose 31 percent in one year to $3.56 billion in the first half of this year.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society