Yeltsin hails new era in Russian relations with China

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The Independent Online
PEKING - Boris Yeltsin, seeking help from China for his crippled economy, said yesterday there were great prospects for military co-operation.

On the first day of his visit to Peking, the man who shattered Communism in the former Soviet Union made clear that arms sales would be an important component in a new relationship he is forging with China based on economic benefit, not ideology. 'There are great prospects in the area of military co-operation,' Mr Yeltsin said. China was in the market for spare parts and machinery to upgrade the many arms supplied by the former Soviet Union.

'Russia will not sell offensive weapons to China,' the Deputy Prime Minister, Alexander Shokhin, said, but he characterised the long-range Su-27 fighter - 24 of which have been delivered to China this year - as 'of a defensive nature'. Russia's ambassador to China, Igor Rogachev, said on Monday that the two sides would sign an agreement on modernising some of the 256 military factories built by the Soviet Union in the 1950s.

Mr Yeltsin's visit will result in an accord setting out a new relationship between the nations that once vied for leadership of the Communist world and now follow strikingly different economic paths. The Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, said the two sides would pledge never to take part in any military or political alliance against the other.

Mr Yeltsin will also come away with several dozen other accords covering science, trade and economic exchanges, officials said.

Mr Yastrzhembsky said China was expected to give some 300m yuan (pounds 33m) in credits to Russia to buy Chinese consumer goods. The two sides were still discussing whether Russia will supply China with a two-unit nuclear power plant. Mr Yeltsin held out the prospect of a further reduction of military forces along the 2,500-mile border between the two countries.

Asian governments are alarmed that China is seeking advanced weapons to project its power in the post Cold-War era. China's neighbours are concerned that Russia, desperate for hard cash, might be tempted to sell Peking high- technology weaponry it cannot get from the West.

Mr Yeltsin is the first senior Kremlin leader to visit China since the former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev arrived in 1989 and caused huge embarrassment to his hosts by becoming a hero to pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square.

He was greeted at the Great Hall of the People by the Chinese President, Yang Shang Kun, before inspecting a People's Liberation Army honour guard. Mr Yeltsin shrugged off a question over whether China may provide a model for Russian development. 'Let's analyse it,' he said. 'It is an interesting model - an idea based on reform without shocks, gradual reform. It is a socialist country but a market economy.' Mr Yeltsin looked relaxed despite a gruelling two-week battle with his conservative parliament that ended on Monday with the humiliating loss of his reformist prime minister, Yegor Gaidar. Tomorrow he is scheduled to fly to China's economic showcase of Shenzhen, across the border from Hong Kong, before leaving for home.