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China: Putin Starts His Three-Country Asian Tour

Beijing, July 17 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin has arrived in Beijing, starting his three-country Asian tour. Putin will attend an official welcoming ceremony tomorrow before beginning talks with China's President Jiang Zemin. The two leaders are expected to focus on disarmament issues and expanding bilateral trade. Both countries oppose plans by the United States to create and deploy a national missile defense system. Jiang and Putin are expected to sign a document supporting the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and rejecting any changes to it. The U.S. says it needs the system to counter threats from so-called rogue nations which may acquire nuclear and missile technology sufficient to menace the U.S. or its allies.

Putin and Jiang are also expected to discuss ways to boost bilateral trade which totaled a mere 5,700 million dollars last year. Jiang and first Russian President Boris Yeltsin agreed in 1997 to increase bilateral trade to 20,000 million dollars by this year.

Putin departs China Wednesday for North Korea. He will be in Japan on Friday to attend the summit of industrialized nations in Okinawa.