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Tuesday, 18 July, 2000, 07:36 GMT 08:36 UK
Russia-China attack US missile plan
Chinese President Jiang Zemin welcomes Russian President Vladimir Putin
Russia and China oppose US domination
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Jiang Zemin have urged the international community to oppose Washington's plans for a national missile defence system.

The two leaders warned in a joint statement that the system could upset the world's strategic balance.

Mr Putin had earlier been given a red-carpet welcome in Beijing at the start of a two-day visit that the Chinese Government hopes will revive a strategic partnership against US global dominance.

Mr Putin is now holding talks with other senior Chinese leaders, which are expected to focus on closer economic cooperation between the two countries.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin and Russian President Vladimir Putin
President Putin received a state welcome
The declaration comes a day after US Defence Secretary William Cohen defended Washington's proposals for a national missile defence system (NMD), citing Iran's successful medium-range missile test at the weekend.

Deployment

Mr Cohen warned of an accelerated pace of missile development by Iran and said the test of the Shahab 3 highlighted the need for a system capable of protecting the US against a limited attack from Iran or North Korea.

The BBC Beijing correspondent says the statement does not go beyond reiterating strong opposition to NMD by both countries.

He says it is not clear what other action China and Russia might take, either together or separately, if the US goes ahead with the deployment.

This is first time Mr Putin has visited China since he was elected president earlier this year.

Military modernisation

He was welcomed by a 21-gun salute and full military honours in Tiananmen Square.

Opposition to US dominance of the Asia Pacific region is at the core of China's desire for a stronger relationship with Russia.

China fears that NMD and its associated Theatre Missile Defence (TMD) programme could include Taiwan, which Beijing calls a "renegade state".

Russia is also a key supplier of modern military hardware to China.

Such weapons are crucial to Beijing's programme of military modernisation, which is aimed at challenging US power in the region and ultimately at pressuring Taiwan into reunification with China.

Up to seven agreements are expected to be signed during Mr Putin's visit, including economic and trade agreements which could pave the way for several large ventures, such as the joint construction of oil and natural gas pipelines between the two nations.

However, correspondents say such deals are of only limited interest to China, because of Russia's struggling economy.

Trade between the two nations has declined from nearly $10bn in 1994 to less than $6bn in 1999.

Mr Putin will leave China for North Korea on Wednesday, going on to Russia's far east and then to Japan, where he will attend the G8 summit of industrialised nations in Okinawa.

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See also:

18 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Russia seeks closer North Korean ties
18 Jul 00 | Europe
In Pictures: Old foes, new smiles
26 Apr 00 | Europe
Russia resists US missile plan
06 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
US missiles: China's view
18 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
China and Russia: shallow alliance
17 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Shared aims at Beijing summit
08 Jul 00 | Americas
US attacked after test failure
28 Mar 00 | Europe
Putin's foreign policy riddle
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