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Chinese Leader's Visit To Russia Will Boost Military, Economic Ties

CHINA and Russia will likely move to boost military ties further during the visit to Moscow of President Jiang Zemin starting today, Chinese and Western analysts say.

Mr. Jiang's trip, the first Russian visit by a Chinese president since Mao Zedong's visit 37 years ago, is part of a cautious effort by the two to improve ties and is the latest in a series of official exchanges to promote detente.

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Chinese analysts predict Jiang and Russian officials will sign an arms pledge not to aim ballistic missiles at each other and also settle a continuing dispute over the western boundary of their more than 2,400-mile border.

``China and Russia want to resolve the longstanding border dispute so they can concentrate on expanding their economic relations,'' says a Chinese economist who closely follows ties with Russia. ``The main priority is economics, although there are also opportunities for military cooperation.''

Jiang, who also serves as Communist Party chief and head of the Central Military Commission and is the heir apparent to paramount leader Deng Xiaoping, could go shopping for new Russian weaponry as part of his efforts to bolster his status with the Chinese military, Western analysts say. Military technology sales are also expected to come up during Jiang's stops in Ukraine Sept. 6-8 and in France Sept. 9-12.

In a sign of growing Chinese-Russian military rapport that has alarmed the United States, diplomats here say China reportedly wants to spend $5 billion to buy Russian technology for jet fighters and a jet-maintenance center, mid-air refueling aircraft, air freighters, tank technology and production, and air-defense missile systems. Russia would also provide assistance in training Chinese military specialists in fighter aircraft and missile-system technology.

In July, Gen. Chi Haotian, China's defense minister, met his Russian counterpart and signed a collective-security agreement aimed at preventing unintentional border crossings, accidental launching of missiles, and interfering with border-control systems.

``Although many suspicions remain, Russia and China are slowly making progress in creating the basis for solid relations,'' the Chinese expert says.

The agreement to settle on the western part of their joint border is another step toward resolving border disputes that prompted heavy fighting between the two in the 1960s. A Russian diplomat says that only about 10 percent of the border remains under dispute, particularly the portion along the Amur River in northeastern China.

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China says that several small islands that Russia took over in 1860 should not be in Russian hands. The islands were the site of heavy fighting between the two armies in March 1969.

Other obstacles to growing ties also remain, Western analysts say. Despite a Chinese desire to sell more consumer goods to Russia in exchange for military technology, ``the Russians can't begin to pay for all the things they want from China,'' a Western diplomat says. ``The military relationship will develop slowly.''

In 1993, official Chinese and Russian trade was $7.7 billion, up 30 percent from 1992 when trade expanded by 50 percent. Last year, China became Russia's largest trading partner.

Russia has also become alarmed by the heavy influx of Chinese into towns in the Russian far east, prompting the imposition of immigration and travel restrictions to control mounting resentment against China.

China has responded by detaining Russian traders on immigration violations.

Russian officials are also expected to raise nuclear-disarmament issues with Jiang and China's continued testing of nuclear warheads and defiance of the international moratorium on nuclear testing.

Although the arms trading has brought the two militaries closer together, a lack of any major threat, such as the US posed during the cold war, ``will keep their long-term strategic interests from converging in the future,'' says a Western diplomat in Beijing.

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