Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma yesterday began a five-day visit to China by signing with his Chinese counterpart, Jiang Zemin, a statement on friendly relations and agreements on cooperation in peaceful use of outer space, avoidance of double taxation, and a mutual payment mechanism between Ukraine’s National Bank and the People’s Bank of China. The latter agreement is meant to eliminate Russian middlemen and the ruble in Ukraine-China trade. This was a high priority goal for Ukraine which seeks to increase its trade with China to $2 or $3 billion by the end of the century, from the present turnover estimated at $800 million. Ukraine plans to focus on the metallurgical, shipbuilding, aviation, and space sectors. (19)
Ukrainian defense minister Valery Shmarov signed a military cooperation agreement in Beijing in April. Kuchma had visited China several times during the Soviet era when he was director of the Pivdenmash nuclear missile factory in Dnipropetrovsk. The visit is part of Kiev’s developing "Asian strategy" to forge closer economic and political links with China, Japan, and South Korea. It is also part of Ukrainian plans, as Kuchma yesterday put it, to "diversify foreign policy links" away from Russia and the CIS.
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