Russia and China reconfirmed their "strategic partnership" yesterday during a visit to Moscow by Chinese Prime Minister Li Peng. Li’s arrival marked the third time that he has met with Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin under a program of regular contacts that was instituted in December 1996. The two ministers held their last such meeting in June of last year. Li also held talks yesterday with Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Li’s visit to Moscow, which is to conclude today, is also intended to advance plans for talks later this year between Yeltsin and Chinese President Jiang Zemin.
Following a two-hour meeting yesterday between government delegations from the two countries, Li and Chernomyrdin signed a package of agreements. They included an accord on the settlement of a debt on state credits, an agreement on cooperation in ship-building and a protocol on bilateral trade and cooperation in 1998. Preparations for yesterday’s signings by the two delegations had been conducted during talks a day earlier overseen by Chinese Deputy Prime Minister Li Lanqing and Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov. (Itar-Tass, February 17) Russian and Chinese leaders have repeatedly pledged to give substance to their joint political declarations by raising still modest levels of bilateral trade. According to Nemtsov, trade turnover between Russia and China totaled just over $6 billion in 1997. (Itar-Tass, February 16) That is a far cry from the $20 billion in annual trade that the two sides have set as their goal by the end of this decade.
Following Li’s meeting with Boris Yeltsin yesterday, the two men issued a joint statement expressing their deep concern over the "dangerous" situation in the Persian Gulf. As permanent members of the UN Security Council, they reiterated their opposition to a military solution to the conflict and called on Iraq to comply fully with UN resolutions. (Itar-Tass, February 17) While Russia and France have played the leading roles in rallying international opposition to possible U.S. and British air strikes on Iraq, China has also steadfastly opposed the employment of military force to resolve the conflict.
Kalmykia Introduces Presidential Rule.