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• Talks among China, India, and Russia Suggest the Growth of a Trilateral Relationship
• As Economic Ties to North Korea Tighten, China is Harder Pressed to Oppose Proliferation
• Rumsfeld Praises India, Criticizes China on Democratic Efforts

Talks among China, India, and Russia Suggest the Growth of a Trilateral Relationship

Meeting in Vladivostok, Russia on June 2nd, China, India, and Russia agreed to boost trilateral cooperation on terrorism and security, promoting economic development, and preventing natural disasters. This is the culmination of a recent warming in relations among the three Asian powers. In April, China resolved its border dispute with India, while at the talks in Vladivostok, China resolved its dispute with Russia over its eastern border.

On security issues, the nations discussed North Korean nuclear proliferation, terrorism, drug trafficking and energy security. They also concurred on the "objective requirement" of the expansion of the United Nations Security Council. Currently, India, Brazil, Germany and Japan aim to expand the Security Council and win permanent seats. Given that Sino-Japanese relations remain at an all-time low, it is unlikely that China would support the Japanese bid, but despite its reluctance to admit Japan onto the Council, both China and Russia indicated that they would support an Indian bid.

For economic cooperation, the Ministers decided that India would host the first trilateral business meeting in New Delhi early next year. Experts and officials from the three nations would collaborate on concrete possibilities in agriculture, energy, transportation, high technologies and other sectors The Ministers stressed the important role of direct business to business contacts. Both energy-starved China and India look at Russia's northern oil reserves as a possible source to meet their burgeoning energy requirements. For Russia, the two countries represent gigantic potential markets.

Given that the three nations have 40 percent of the world's population and account for some 20 percent of the global economy, the talks are of immense significance, not just for regional opponents such as Pakistan and Japan, but for the international order as a whole. These three party talks mark the first occasion on which all three Asian colossuses have met independently, outside an international forum. Following the Sept. 11 attacks and US war in Iraq, the three nations have developed mutual concerns about U.S. unilateralism and as a result, encouraged a common approach to international affairs.

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As Economic Ties to North Korea Tighten, China is Harder Pressed to Oppose Proliferation

China's increased trade and investment in North Korea are frustrating U.S. efforts with the nation.

China is North Korea's biggest trading partner. Estimates suggest that North Korean trade with China amounted to half of the country’s commerce with the outside world in 2004. Chinese investment in North Korea has jumped from $1.3 million in 2003 to $200 million last year and continues to grow.

The US has been attempting to enlist China in persuading North Korea to return to the multi-lateral talks which have suspended for a year. Now, however, growing economic ties between China and North Korea are frustrating U.S. efforts. In February, the situation became more urgent when North Korea declared that it possesses nuclear weapons.

The nation refuses to resume talks unless the United States changes its "hostile policy" toward its leader, Kim Jong Il. President George Bush has called Kim a "tyrant" in the past, but recently he said that U.S. policy was to keep sending "a message to Mr. Kim Jong Il that if you want to be accepted by the neighborhood and be a part of ... those who are viewed with respect in the world, work with us to get rid of your nuclear weapons program."

So far, the Bush administration has shown no willingness to peacefully coexist with North Korea by meeting a North Korean demand or offering detailed, one-on-one negotiations. The escalating dispute is likely to make for tense discussion June 10, when South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun is due to meet with Bush in Washington.

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Rumsfeld Praises India, Criticizes China on Democratic Efforts

On June 3rd, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warned that if China’s economic reforms are not eventually matched with democratic reforms, China risks undermining its growing influence in the world. En route to an Asian regional security conference focusing on China and North Korea, Rumsfeld compared China to India, the world's largest democracy, which the Bush administration is courting as a counter-weight to the communist nation.

Despite his critical remarks, Rumsfeld also said he plans to make his first visit to China as Pentagon chief later this year. Although managing China's rising power is an important U.S. objective, Rumsfeld has not visited Beijing since becoming defense secretary in 2001. By contrast, Condoleezza Rice went there in March 2005, soon after becoming secretary of state.

Rapidly improving U.S.-India ties are driven largely by relations between the two militaries, while the Pentagon's ties with the Chinese army are still recovering from the EP-3 surveillance plane incident in April 2001. The Pentagon will soon issue its annual report on China's military modernisation, which is expected to repeat U.S. concerns that Beijing in rapidly building a battery of ballistic missiles opposite Taiwan and spending freely on advanced weaponry. Some military analysts say the balance is tipping in China's direction and against the self-governed island Beijing insists must be united with the mainland.

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