Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 162

Russian Foreign Ministry sources yesterday strongly denied press reports suggesting that Moscow is near to finalizing a deal under which it would agree to sell China two nuclear powered submarines. Sources were quoted as saying that no such talks are currently being held with China, and that no future ones are being considered (Russian agencies, September 1).

Reports of the alleged submarine sale were published on September 1 by two Hong Kong dailies and then picked up by international news services. The reports, which cited unnamed Chinese diplomatic sources, said that Beijing had concluded a billion dollar deal to buy two Typhoon-class nuclear submarines. The deal was reportedly reached during a visit to China last week by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov and the sale was said to have been endorsed during Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s brief summit meeting with Chinese President Jiang Zemin in Bishkek on August 25 (see the Monitor, August 26-27).

The September 1 reports suggested that Beijing intended to purchase the subs in order to deter the U.S. Seventh Fleet from intervening in the increasingly acrimonious standoff between Beijing and Taipei. The Typhoon class submarines are among Russia’s largest and most modern, and are equipped with SS-N-20 ballistic missiles with a range of over 5,000 miles (AFP, AP, September 1).

The submarine deal, which follows up an announcement that China will purchase up to sixty Russian-made Su-30 multirole combat aircraft (see the Monitor, September 1), was presented as yet another reflection of closer Russian-Chinese ties in the wake of NATO’s air war in Yugoslavia. During the Yeltsin-Jiang talks, and also during Klebanov’s visit to China, both sides emphasized their desire to further strengthen the Russian-Chinese “strategic partnership.” China is already a major buyer of Russian military hardware, and Klebanov had suggested in Beijing that new deals are in the pipeline.