London (CNSNews.com) - Russia and China Monday signed a friendship treaty in Moscow aimed at counteracting the global influence of the United States and installing a "just and rational new international order."
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his visiting Chinese counterpart Jiang Zemin signed the treaty on "good neighborliness, friendship and cooperation," described by Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov at a briefing afterwards as "unique."
This was the first time Russia had signed such a document that "most profoundly interprets all vectors in our cooperation with another state," he said.
The treaty is intended to replace a 1949 Sino-Soviet pact, which fell apart in the 1960s when the two powers vied for supremacy in the communist world.
Losyukov stressed that Russia's partnership with China was not "directed against anyone in the West."
The document contains clauses referring to the possibility of coordinated actions in the international arena, but Losyukov said this stopped short of being a military alliance with each side agreeing to come automatically to the other's aid.
The clauses, he said, concerned the two sides' readiness to consult in the event of any extraordinary situation or threats to the security of each other.
The treaty confirms Russia's stance that Taiwan is an "inalienable" part of China.
Losyukov said the document was not meant to reflect the countries' joint opposition to President Bush's missile defense proposals, but instead was intended to last decades into the future, when the issue may no longer be relevant.
Instead, the two leaders issued a separate declaration, stressing their commitment to the 1972 Soviet-U.S. Anti Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, which will need amendment or scrapping if the missile project goes ahead.
The joint statement said the treaty was a "cornerstone of strategic stability and the basis for reducing offensive weapons," according to the Russian news agency, Tass.
Washington's plans received a boost at the weekend with a Pentagon announcement of a successful missile-killing test over the Pacific Ocean, following two failures under the previous administration.
Russia bases its stance on the ABM Treaty argument. The Foreign Ministry in Moscow condemned the test as a threat to nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. Putin is expected to discuss the matter with Bush at the G-8 summit in Genoa, Italy this weekend.
China is opposed, given the fact that an American shield will considerably weaken its relatively small nuclear deterrent. The official Xinhua news agency on Sunday quoted "arms control experts" as saying the proposals would "not only spark a new arms race, but also threaten world peace and security, and stimulate nuclear proliferation."
The Center for Security Policy in Washington said Monday it would not be surprised if the public friendship treaty was accompanied by secret codicils formalizing bilateral collaboration in defense and foreign policy issues.
"Whether reduced to writing or not, the two nations' common approach in opposition to key U.S. policies and interests is of increasing concern."
The CSP listed these as the Taiwan question, missile defense, opposition to NATO's eastward expansion, and disapproval of U.S. policy in the Balkans and the Middle East.
The Center also found it ironic that Putin, when he arrives in Genoa for the G-8 summit, will be protected along with leaders of the seven other leading industrialized nations by a mini missile defense shield, installed by the Italian authorities at Genoa airport as part of anti-terrorist precautions.
Apart from the "friendship" pact, Russia and China also agreed Monday to increase cooperation in various spheres, including space exploration, shipbuilding, oil-and-gas, nuclear power, telecommunications and the information industry.
During the first half of 2001, bilateral trade increased considerably, by 32.6 percent from Russia to China, and by 17.2 percent from China to Russia.
China mostly sells clothing, footwear and electronic equipment to Russia, and buys weaponry, machinery, industrial equipment, fertilizers, fuel and timber from its giant northern neighbor.