Demilitarized Border Urged by Gorbachev

Times Staff Writer

Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev proposed here Tuesday that China and the Soviet Union mark their new rapprochement through the step-by-step demilitarization of their 4,500-mile border, now one of the world’s most heavily defended frontiers.

“We want the Sino-Soviet border to be protected only by friendship,” Gorbachev told Chinese Premier Li Peng in a day of extensive discussions on international issues and bilateral relations during the first Sino-Soviet summit meeting in 30 years. “We stand for a radical detente between us.”

Gorbachev and Chinese leaders also discussed a program of extensive economic cooperation and a broad series of scientific, technical and cultural exchanges to rebuild their once-friendly relations, all but destroyed by three decades of bitter rivalry.


“End the past and open up the future,” Deng Xiaoping, China’s senior leader, said as he met Gorbachev at the Great Hall of the People and announced the normalization of Sino-Soviet relations. “This is something that not only our peoples, but the whole world, has been waiting for. . . . It will have a major impact on the world.”

But serious differences continued Tuesday between China and the Soviet Union over Cambodia: the terms for Vietnam’s withdrawal, promised for Sept. 30; the government that will be formed afterward, and the future roles of the People’s Revolutionary Party of Kampuchea, which now holds power and has Vietnamese and Soviet backing, and the Khmer Rouge, which was ousted by Vietnam in 1979 but still has strong Chinese support.

After an “in-depth” discussion between Deng and Gorbachev on Indochina during their 2 1/2-hour meeting, “both shared some convergent views, but nothing concrete was reached,” Li Zhaoxing, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, told reporters. The two countries’ foreign ministers will meet today to continue the discussion.

Disagreement on Cambodia

The Cambodian issue was the last serious point of contention in drafting a joint communique proclaiming the normalization of Sino-Soviet ties and laying the principles for future relations, Soviet officials said.

“The Cambodian settlement is gradually taking on a realistic shape,” Gorbachev said in a speech this morning, stressing the Soviet desire for an early compromise. “The main principle on which it can and must be based is the principle of national self-determination, which is the only correct one. Only the Cambodians--and no one else--can find the formula of agreement and of the future political structure of their country.

“The Soviet Union is ready to take part in the appropriate international guarantees and to respect any choice of the people of Cambodia and their country’s course of independence, neutrality and nonalignment.”


Meeting with Deng and other Chinese leaders in a day of intensive discussions on Tuesday, Gorbachev had stressed the need for the two countries to broaden and deepen their ties to overcome the long hostility between them and to fashion a new cooperative relationship.

“Now that Sino-Soviet relations can be proclaimed as normal,” Gorbachev was quoted by Gennady I. Gerasimov, the Soviet spokesman, as telling Deng, “we must think about how to develop them in the future.”

Gorbachev, who arrived Monday for the first visit by his country’s top leader since 1959, addressed a meeting of Chinese intellectuals this morning in the Great Hall of the People. He is scheduled to give an interview on Chinese television and hold a press conference later today in addition to seeing the Great Wall outside Beijing and touring the capital’s Palace Museum. On Thursday, he visits Shanghai, China’s largest city, before flying home to Moscow.

Setting out Soviet hopes for its new relationship with China, Gorbachev told the writers, artists, scientists, engineers and other members of the Chinese intelligentsia that even with the hostility of the past 30 years, he believes that “the positive trend in our relations far outweighs the legacy of mistrust and conflicts.”

But the past decades have shown, he continued, that it is “far easier to sour or destroy relations between countries than to build and consolidate them and make them fruitful.

‘Erroneous Decisions’

“A few erroneous decisions taken in disregard of a partner’s interests, attempts to impose on him one’s own views and an escalation of mutual grievances to the political level as well as elevating ideological disputes and disagreements to the point of confrontation between states may result in dividing one-time friends by a wall of suspicion and animosity. . . .


“Let me express confidence that the leaders and peoples of our two countries will make sure that such errors, so difficult to correct, are not repeated.”

His speech was extensively rewritten Tuesday evening, according to Soviet sources, to reflect the discussions with Chinese leaders and to take account of the continuing mass protests in Tian An Men Square demanding greater democracy.

On Tuesday, Gorbachev and his wife, Raisa, stopped their car briefly in southwest Beijing to greet residents while on the way from the Great Hall to the state guest house where they are staying. The couple was quickly mobbed by well-wishers.

While trying to avoid involvement in China’s complex political scene, Gorbachev expressed his sympathy with the Chinese leaders Tuesday as they reviewed political and economic reforms in the two countries.

“Both societies have hotheads who want to renovate socialism,” he told Zhao Ziyang, general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, “but they want to do it overnight. Things like this, however, cannot be done so quickly. It is just impossible. But such hotheads exist in both societies.”

Talks Called Historic

Gorbachev’s talks Tuesday with Deng, Zhao and Li were described as historic by Gerasimov, the Soviet spokesman, because, he said, they not only ended the lengthy hostility between the two countries but also laid the basis for a new relationship intended to reduce international tensions.


The Soviet president discussed the international scene extensively with both Deng and Li, according to Chinese and Soviet spokesmen, who said there was broad agreement on many issues.

Praising the improvement of Soviet-American relations, the Chinese leaders called for further progress on reducing the superpowers’ nuclear arsenals.

Gorbachev, in his speech today, reiterated Moscow’s view that reducing international tensions and resolving world problems do not depend on just the most powerful nations.

“The world is becoming integrated and, figuratively speaking, ‘more tightly knit,’ but at the same time it is also becoming more diverse and even ‘expanding,’ ” he said, noting that many major problems required international action but that more and more countries asserted their “unconditional right to choose freely their own road.”

“Here lies one of the real contradictions of our time, one that cannot be ignored. We would run a grave risk if we tried to remove that contradiction through the use of force, by imposing on people some social system or by forcing on them the rules of conduct devised by some high council of great powers. Our Gordian knots cannot be cut. They ought to be prudently untied.”

Gorbachev’s proposal for a sharp reduction in the large forces on the Sino-Soviet frontier--one of the bold initiatives that have become his trademark in international diplomacy--will test Beijing’s declared commitment to lowering tensions between the two countries and in Asia generally.


“We are prepared to work for the withdrawal, on terms to be agreed with China, of military units and armaments from the border areas, leaving only the personnel required for performing routine border guard duties,” he said in his address today. “Demilitarizing the Sino-Soviet border and turning it into a border of peace and good-neighborliness is a noble goal that we could attain through joint efforts.”

Demilitarization Talks

Although Moscow has already begun reducing its forces along the Sino-Soviet border through Central Asia and the Far East and had earlier pledged to cut them by a further 200,000 in the next two years, Gorbachev suggested negotiations on the progressive demilitarization of the frontier. It was the scene of major border clashes in 1969 and continuing incidents through the 1970s and early 1980s.

He proposed negotiations aimed first at withdrawing a large number of troops from the immediate border area, gradually reducing their number and deploying those that remained in clearly defensive postures.

China, as part of the overall reduction of its armed forces several years ago, reportedly thinned out its border garrisons.

The Soviet Union has an estimated 500,000 troops in the border region, and China is believed to have more. Western authorities believe that Soviet weaponry is greatly superior to that of the Chinese.

Will Speed Border Work

Although significant differences remain between the two countries over their border--where it lies and whether much of the present-day Soviet Union was originally Chinese territory as Beijing contends--a bilateral commission is resolving the problems, according to Chinese and Soviet officials. It is to be upgraded shortly to give greater impetus to the work.


“We want the border question to be settled quickly so that it does not remain a problem in our new relationship,” Gerasimov said.

On Monday, Moscow began the pullout of three-fourths of its troops in Mongolia, a close Kremlin ally wedged between the Soviet Union and China, and Gorbachev said the rest could be withdrawn if Mongolia agreed.

Gorbachev also suggested resumption of military exchanges between the two countries, similar to those the Soviet Union now has with the United States and other members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Reassure Other Nations

But Gorbachev and Chinese leaders again stressed that the improvement of Sino-Soviet relations is not intended to bring the re-establishment of the alliance the two Communist powers had in the 1950s, nor is it directed, they said, against any other countries.

“From the very outset, one thought invariably present in our talks with the Chinese leaders,” Gorbachev said today, “was that the improvement of Sino-Soviet relations is not directed against anyone and does not require from China or from the Soviet Union that they relinquish their existing ties with other countries--whether socialist or capitalist, developing or developed, Western or Eastern. Normal Sino-Soviet relations serve the interests of the entire world community and are consistent with the prevailing international trends.”

A program for economic cooperation and increased trade is now under discussion, according to Soviet officials, although Premier Li, who is himself a Soviet-trained electrical engineer, complained that Soviet bureaucracy is seriously hampering rapid expansion of economic ties.


Recalling how he had forced a resolution of domestic economic differences, Gorbachev jokingly suggested locking the officials responsible for the problems in a country house until they had agreed on a solution to the problem.

“The potential for economic cooperation is perhaps of several orders of magnitude greater than what we have now,” Gorbachev told his audience, urging them to work for its development. “This cannot be realized at one go. What needs to be done is to identify promising areas, settle complex problems of pricing and help enterprises find suitable partners. It will also take time to train personnel and regain expertise that was lost to a large extent over the years when our economic relations were virtually suspended.”

He proposed the increase of traditional Sino-Soviet trade, an exchange of raw materials and heavy machinery from the Soviet Union for consumer goods and food from China, and a series of joint ventures undertaken by Chinese and Soviet enterprises.

He also suggested two major projects--construction of a pipeline to carry coal slurry from Chinese mines and completion of a new railway from China’s Xianjiang province through Soviet Central Asia.

Marxism Updating Needed

Discussing the future of socialism with Deng, who has become the great reformer of Chinese communism, Gorbachev said that Marxism needs a substantial updating to cope with present-day problems.

“Karl Marx lived in the last century,” Gorbachev said, “and he cannot provide the answers for all the problems of today. Marx, in fact, did not foresee the Bolshevik Revolution, and Lenin (founder of the Soviet state) did not foresee the Chinese revolution.


“The way we adapt to those new conditions and demonstrate the potential of socialism will determine the influence of socialism on the world.”

But Moscow no longer believes that there can be “one model or scheme” of socialism for all, Gorbachev continued. “Each country has to deal with its problems in its own way and considering its overall development.”

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