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Russia and China sign alliance

Both Jiang Zemin and Russian President Vladimir Putin are fiercely opposed to the U.S. defence plans
Both Jiang Zemin and Russian President Vladimir Putin are fiercely opposed to the U.S. defence plans  

MOSCOW, Russia -- Chinese President Jiang Zemin and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin have signed a new "friendship agreement," the Itar-Tass agency reports.

The so-called Good Neighbourly Treaty of Friendship and Co-operation replaces a 50-year old agreement intended to defend both countries' mutual interests and boost economic and cultural trade.

But some observers say the treaty is a move to strengthen their mutual opposition to the U.S.' plans for a global missile defence system. Both countries want to preserve the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) pact between Moscow and Washington as a basis for international stability.

Washington argues that the ABM pact is a relic of the Cold War and wants the treaty amended or scrapped. U.S. President George W. Bush has made clear he will not allow the pact to stand in the way of a new missile defence system.

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China and Russia fear the proposals could spark a global arms race and prompt the renewed production of nuclear weapons. They say scrapping the ABM treaty would undermine a whole series of arms reduction treaties reached over the past 30 years and eliminate an effective instrument of maintaining international stability without offering any alternative.

"Russia and China stress the basic importance of the ABM treaty, which is a cornerstone of the strategic stability and the basis for reducing offensive weapons, and speak out for maintaining the treaty in its current form," Tass quoted a joint declaration by Putin and Jiang Zemin as saying.

The leaders also called for further reductions in strategic arms and for the creation of a "global nuclear non-proliferation mechanism," Reuters news agency said.

"Russia and China will step up their co-operation in nuclear non-proliferation including efforts to encourage all members of the international community to join the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty," the declaration said.

Both Moscow and Beijing have stressed the new friendship agreement poses no military threat to the U.S. or any other countries.

Jiang's pre-planned visit comes after the U.S.' successful test of a missile interceptor over the weekend.

Russia's nuclear arsenal dwarfs that of China, which analysts say is keen to speed up military expansion through an alliance with Moscow.

Russia's defence industry is rich in expertise and advanced weapon design but short on orders from the country's own impoverished military.

During the 90s China has been the biggest customer at Russian defence factories, buying billions of dollars worth of Russian jets, submarines, missiles and destroyers.

But despite this, some have pointed to inconsistency in the Russian-Chinese alliance -- who this year have only traded $3.8 billion compared to $115 billion with the U.S.

There has also been concern in Russia about Chinese migrants taking over the sparsely populated Far Eastern and Siberian regions of the country, Reuters said.

The new treaty replaces the Soviet-Chinese alliance of the 1950s.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, both countries have put aside their differences and forged what they call " a strategic partnership."

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