Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 8

When Chinese prime minister Li Peng visited Moscow in late December he signed a secret arms deal to buy two Russian Sovremenny-class guided-missile destroyers, the Washington Times said on January 10. The ships will be equipped with advanced SS-N-22 anti-ship cruise missiles. The deal was said to be a direct response to the Clinton Administration’s "gunboat diplomacy" of last March, when Washington sent two U.S. aircraft carriers to the Taiwan Straits to counter the mainland’s military intimidation of Taiwan.

While some sources indicated that the two ships would be built for China from the keel up in St. Petersburg, that seems improbable in light of the fact that it would take some 5 years to complete them. A more likely scenario would see China take delivery in the near future of two Sovremenny-class ships that have not yet been turned over to the Russian Navy. The Vazhny and the Aleksandr Nevsky are both fitting out at the Northern Shipyard in St. Petersburg. The latter ship is the 19th — and was thought to be the last — unit of this class to be built. The 6,300 ton warships are designed for anti-ship missions and also have a formidable anti-air capability.

At the time of Li Peng’s Moscow visit, several Russian officials suggested that Moscow would forge closer strategic ties with China as a counter to NATO’s eastward expansion in Europe. The Chinese acquisition would also allow the Chinese Navy to rise another notch in its effort to match the Russia’s own Pacific Fleet.

CIS Summit Postponed Again.