China, Russia Sign Friendship Agreement

ByABC News
July 16, 2001, 6:40 PM

M O S C O W, July 16 -- Russia and China signed their first friendshiptreaty in more than a half century today, promising to "remainfriends forever" while stressing their partnership was not amilitary alliance aimed against third countries.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpartJiang Zemin also reiterated their opposition to Washington's plansto deploy a missile defense shield, but their careful languagesuggested both were looking for a way out of confrontation with theUnited States.

The Bush administration said the new friendship pact posed noparticular threat to the United States. "They have a long borderin the region, and it's important for them to get along," StateDepartment spokesman Richard Boucher said today in Washington.

Jiang's arrival in Moscow on Sunday followed the United States' successfultest of a missile interceptor a step forward in Washington'squest to build a missile defense system.

Neither Jiang nor Putin commented on the test, or on thePentagon's plans to start building a new missile defense test rangein Alaska.

But in a statement, the two leaders reasserted that theAnti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, signed by the Soviet Union and theUnited States in 1972, was a "cornerstone of strategic stability"that must be preserved.

Rivalry Began in 1960s

The post-Soviet friendship treaty signed today is the firstsince 1950, when Josef Stalin and Mao Tse-tung created aSoviet-Chinese alliance a friendship that slid into rivalry andthen hostility in the 1960s. Since the collapse of the Soviet Unionin 1991, Moscow and Beijing have tried to put the strife behindthem and forged what they call a "strategic partnership."

Russia and China, which have vastly different nuclearcapabilities, both warn the proposed U.S. missile shield could tiltthe strategic balance and trigger a new arms race.

Still, their failure to address the latest U.S. missile testsuggests the two countries do not view Washington's plans quite thesame way.