Russian minister praises closer military ties with China

Friday, May 31, 2002

BEIJING (AP) -- Russia's defense minister met with Chinese President Jiang Zemin on Friday for talks on building military ties between the two former rivals and allaying suspicions about Moscow's closer links with NATO.

Both Jiang and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov gave an upbeat assessment of the talks, saying the two sides agreed on the need for a strategic partnership, according to China's official Xinhua News Agency.

"The development of military relations between Russia and China not only benefits both nations, but also helps promote regional and world peace and stability," Ivanov was quoted as saying.

Ivanov reportedly said military ties have grown warmer in recent years, including increased contacts between the nations' defense ministers.

During the days of the Soviet Union, the two communist giants were bitter rivals with massive armies facing their shared border.

Though the Xinhua report didn't mention it, Friday's talks were also believed to have touched upon Tuesday's NATO summit in Rome, where the former anti-Soviet alliance embraced Moscow as a limited partner. While China has not criticized the move, it has in the past felt excluded from military alliances, dismissing them as Cold War relics.

The two sides are also believed to have discussed measures to fight international terrorism. Jiang will visit the Russian city of St. Petersburg in June for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a group originally founded in China to combat Muslim extremists. The organization is made up of Russia, China and four central Asia republics.

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