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Tajik Land Settlement Expands China's Territory

Russian troops line up for muster near the Pamir mountains at the Tajik-Afghan border (FILE).

China says a border dispute "left over from history" has been permanently settled through equal consultation with Tajikistan, the poorest of the five former Soviet republics in Central Asia and a major recipient of Chinese investment.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Thursday that the two countries have "signed border treaties and completed border demarcation" in a move that will foster "good neighborliness and friendly cooperation" between them.

Tajikistan's lower house of parliament ratified an agreement Wednesday that cedes to China a little more than 1,000 square kilometers of unpopulated land high in the Pamir mountains. The dispute dates from the 19th century when the territory was ruled by czarist Russia, and it remained a source of friction between China and the Soviet Union.

In the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, opposition leaders criticized the land concession and said it violated the constitution. But Foreign Minister Khamrokhon Zarifi hailed the agreement as a "great victory for Tajik diplomacy," noting that the original Chinese claim covered more than 28,000 square kilometers.