A gas deal estimated at between $4 and $5 billion was the crowning jewel in a series of agreements signed by Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin during a visit to Beijing on June 27-28. The framework accord calls for Russia to supply China with up to 30 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually, some of which could also be sold to Japan and South Korea. The natural gas pipeline will run from Russia’s Irkutsk region to Northern China. Eight intergovernmental agreements were signed in all, including one stipulating regular meetings between the prime ministers of the two countries and another on preserving Russia’s consulate general in Hong Kong after the territory’s transfer to China. An accord on railroad travel was also signed, as were basic provisions for the construction of a transmission line to bring electricity to China from Russia’s Irkutsk region by the year 2002. In addition, the two sides were said to be negotiating the sale of Russia’s latest Sovremenny-class destroyer to China. Talks on Russia’s participation in China’s Three Gorges Dam project — on the Yangtze River — reportedly stalled on unresolved differences over financing.
The agreements represent the latest effort by the two countries to raise bilateral trade turnover from a 1996 level of just under $7 billion to some $20 billion by the end of this century. The visit by Chernomyrdin, and his meetings with both Chinese president Jiang Zemin and prime minister Li Peng, also mark ongoing efforts by Beijing and Moscow to give substance to what their leaders have called a Russian-Chinese "strategic partnership." The intention of the two countries to work together toward the creation of a Post-Cold War international order was formalized in April of this year in a joint declaration issued by Jiang and Russian president Boris Yeltsin. That visit to Moscow by Jiang is to be reciprocated with a trip to China by Yeltsin later this year, it was announced over the weekend. (AP, Kyodo, Itar-Tass, Xinhua, June 27)
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