- BEIJING (Reuters) - As Sino-U.S. ties flounder over disputes about NATO
bombing in Yugoslavia and U.S. charges of nuclear espionage, Beijing is
turning toward its traditional socialist allies in Russia and North Korea
- Beijing and Moscow are now artfully milking
U.S. foreign policy blunders for geopolitical clout, boosting their own
roles on the international stage.
- With a series of well-timed, high-level
visits, the two neighbors have succeeded in putting the United States on
alert with talk of a Beijing-Moscow "strategic partnership" and
consensus on global issues.
- "Russia and China are playing up
their partnership as part of an orchestrated anti-U.S. alliance,"
said one Russian diplomat on condition of anonymity.
- "They have done a similar thing
in Iraq and will continue to use their new-found clout for individual aims."
- Shortly after NATO bombs rained down
on the Chinese embassy in Belgrade on May 7, Russian special envoy Viktor
Chernomyrdin flew into Beijing to discuss ways to resolve the Kosovo crisis.
- NATO said the bombing, which killed three
journalists and wounded 20 other people, was a tragic mistake. China said
it was a deliberate attempt to silence Beijing's criticism of NATO's "interference
in the internal affairs of Yugoslavia".
- Although Chernomyrdin's visit had been
planned well in advance and was part of a regular Russia-China dialogue
on Kosovo, it gave pause to the West, which saw the move as a push to destabilize
NATO unity over Yugoslavia.
- North Korea will soon join the fray as
the hermit kingdom comes off the diplomatic sidelines with a planned June
3-7 visit to Beijing by Pyongyang's second-in-command, Kim Yong-nam.
- Kim will be the highest-level Pyongyang
official to visit China since Beijing forged diplomatic ties with arch-rival
South Korea in 1992.
- He arrives in Beijing shortly after U.S.
envoy William Perry pays a landmark visit to Pyongyang. Perry was expected
to push for a break in the diplomatic impasse between the United States
and North Korea.
- Kim's Beijing sojourn will coincide with
a long-planned trip by Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, putting three
officials in China for what observers expect to be a debriefing about Perry's
new moves to court Pyongyang.
- Russian diplomats say Ivanov's visit
would focus on Kosovo. Nevertheless, the unexpected link to North Korea
could give Ivanov's routine trip much greater import and boost the perception
of a Russia-China axis.
- But some Russian analysts argue the alliance
is one of political convenience and has no lasting purpose.
- "They talk about strategic partnership,
but that is just talk," said Oleg Arin, a senior researcher at the
Russian Academy of Military Science.
- Citing a continued decline in trade and
lack of common long-term goals, Oleg said both sides were exploiting the
relationship but remained mutually suspicious.
- "There are no strategic considerations",
he said. "It is just posturing." (