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Russia, China to Explore Major Pipleline Proposal - 2001-09-08

China and Russia signed a raft of trade agreements Saturday during a visit to Russia by Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji.

Chinese Premier Minister Zhu Rongji is in Russia two months after Moscow and Beijing signed a historic friendship treaty, calling their nations "strategic partners."

On the second day of his visit, Mr. Zhu praised Russia's economic progress, as he and Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov signed seven trade agreements.

These include a deal for China to buy five Russian aircraft and proposals for Russian and China to jointly develop a new jet although Prime Minister Kasyanov did not specify whether it would be a military or civilian aircraft.

The centerpiece of the agreements was a feasibility study for construction of a new oil pipeline from Siberia to China. It would cost an estimated $1.7 billion and could nearly double the trade between the two giant neighbors within five years.

The pipeline is expected to carry 20 million tons of crude oil from Russian to China. Within ten years that could increase to 30 million tons annually.

Trade between China and Russia is increasing. Prime Minister Kasyanov forecast that it could reach $10 billion this year almost double the $5.5 billion volume of two years ago. However this sum remains just 10 per cent of the amount traded annually between China and the Untied States.

During his visit the Chinese premier will also meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russian media reports that the two will discuss cooperation on nuclear energy, telecommunications and border issues.

Russia's deputy atomic minister says the nuclear proposal includes construction of two nuclear energy plants in China.

In addition, Moscow and Beijing are known to be interested in providing a balance to the global influence of the United States. Both oppose Washington's plans for a national missile defense system.