Peking agrees border treaty

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The Independent Online
During the Cold-War era, the Sino-Soviet border was one of the world's potential flashpoints. Yesterday, in the vast hall of the Shanghai Exhibition Centre, five presidents signed a "confidence-building" treaty aimed at reducing military tensions on China's western and northern frontiers.

The accord, which was signed by the leaders of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, will create a 100km-wide zone on each side of the border. Within this region, neighbouring countries must inform each other about troop movements and the personnel and weapons which are stationed there.

The signing ceremony ended the three-day state visit to China of Russia's President, Boris Yeltsin. "For the first time in this part of the world, countries are making concrete commitments to not use force or the threat of force against each other, refusing to seek unilateral military advantage and not using troops positioned along borders to attack each other," said Mr Yeltsin.

His Chinese counterpart, Jiang Zemin, added: "As we are all in a period of economic construction, maintaining good- neighbourly relations is our common desire."

Yet to be concluded are negotiations on cuts in the number of troops along the 4,300km Sino-Russian border. The final demarcation of the border is also not complete, although Mr Yeltsin this week reaffirmed a 1991 agreement to hand back to China a section of territory in the far east of Siberia.

A senior Russian negotiator, Major-General Valery Rozov, this month resigned in protest at Russia giving up the land.

Mr Yeltsin and Mr Jiang avoided comments on the different political courses that their two countries have taken."We are also in the middle of reforms," Mr Yeltsin said. "Here, they call it a socialist market economy with Chinese characteristics. Russia is not building capitalism either, it is building a market economy with its own specific flavour."

Asked whether there was any difference between the ruling Chinese Communists and the Russian Communist leader, Gennady Zyuganov, who is challenging Mr Yeltsin in June's presidential elections, the Russian President replied: "Our Communists are fanatics, local [Chinese] Communists are pragmatists."