Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 140

Russian diplomats yesterday played up talks in Beijing scheduled to start today between Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov and top Chinese leaders. Primakov, who will remain in Beijing until July 26, is expected to meet there with Chinese President Jiang Zemin, Prime Minister Zhu Rongji and Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan. Russia’s ambassador to China, Igor Rogachev, yesterday described Primakov’s visit as the last stage–and a key one–in preparations for an informal summit meeting scheduled for September between Jiang and Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

In that context, Primakov’s talks in Beijing are to focus on a wide array of international issues. According to Rogachev, the agenda includes the crisis in Kosovo, the Middle East peace process, tensions on the Korean Peninsula, Iraq and the changed situation in South Asia following nuclear tests by India and Pakistan. The two sides are also to discuss both security in Central Asia and proposals to establish a nuclear free zone there. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigory Karasin suggested yesterday that Russia and China have adopted the practice of coordinating their views on key foreign policy issues and that Primakov’s current visit is intended to contribute to that process. He also said that there are currently no international issues on which Moscow and Beijing have serious differences. China’s official news agency yesterday described the “strategic partnership” between Russia and China as a key component of the international system and a factor promoting international peace and security. (Itar-Tass, Xinhua, July 21)

Primakov’s visit follows Russian Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko’s own brief sojourn to the Chinese capital for talks on July 14. That trip–the first to China for Kirienko–was reportedly devoted to boosting military-technical cooperation and jump-starting stagnating levels of bilateral trade. (See the Monitor, July 15-16) At least one issue to be raised by Primakov may result in some discord between the two countries. The Russian foreign minister will reportedly request changes in two Russian-Chinese agreements signed in the early 1990’s. The agreements pertain to visa requirements for tourists, officials and diplomats. Moscow will reportedly argue in part that the current regulations have contributed to illegal Chinese immigration in Russian border regions and also to an increase in levels of crime there. (Russian agencies, July 20)