Russia and China are forging a defence pact under the umbrella of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), the Vremya Novostei newspaper reported. The two countries will take a step towards forming a military union when they sign the Charter of the SCO, a regional security organisation that also unites Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
Meeting in Moscow on Friday, the Foreign Ministers of the six member-states approved a draft Charter, to be signed at a June 7 summit of the SCO in St. Petersburg. The draft has not been published, but the VN said that Moscow had earlier agreed with Beijing's proposal to "use the experience of the Collective Security Treaty [a defence pact among six former Soviet states] in preparing basic documents" of the SCO.
The newspaper quoted sources in the Russian National Security Council as saying that the growing American military presence in Central Asia had made Moscow more amenable to China's participation in the allied security arrangements that Russia had in the region.
"The threat of being squeezed out smoothly and gradually [from Central Asia] by China scares Russia less than the aggressive and fast ouster by the Americans and their allies," the VN said. The Shanghai group took the first practical step towards joining forces in the security sphere when their border-guard chiefs, at a meeting in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, agreed to set up a coordinating body to exchange information and conduct joint security operations in Central Asia.
Speaking after Friday's meeting, the Russian Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov, said an accord to set-up "an anti-terrorist structure" would also be signed at the summit in St. Petersburg. "The deployment of U.S. and NATO bases in the region has raised the need [for the SCO] to work towards establishing in future a full-fledged military union," the paper said. It added that the union would essentially be between Russia and China, as three other members of the SCO ? Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan ? were already members of the defence pact with Russia.
The sixth member, Uzbekistan, withdrew from the Russian-led pact in 1999 and did not attend the Shanghai group border-guard meeting this week.
Copyright © Pravda 2002. Reprinted for fair use only
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