China and Russia signed an agreement Oct. 13 to notify each other of impending ballistic missile launches. The agreement was part of a large package of economic and political deals signed during Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's visit with his Chinese counterpart, Wen Jiabao. Putin called the agreement "a very important step towards enhancing mutual trust and strengthening our strategic partnership," according to Russia's Interfax news agency.
This agreement would be the first of its kind between China and Russia. Li Daguang of China's National Defense University said the agreement "shows the special relationship between the two countries.. .as the launches of ballistic missiles are core state secrets rarely disclosed with other countries," according to the Chinese newspaper Global Times.
In an Oct. 24 e-mail to Arms Control Today, Pavel Podvig of Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation praised the agreement for enhancing transparency between the two countries. Hans M. Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project for the Federation of American Scientists, also welcomed the increased transparency. The pact "probably reflects a wish in both [countries] to avoid misunderstandings," he said in an Oct. 27 e-mail.
The new pact is especially significant because China has traditionally avoided agreements, such as the Hague Code of Conduct, that affect its ballistic missile capabilities.
Prior to the agreement with Russia, China had not engaged in bilateral arms control measures with Russia or the United States. The official Chinese media took pains to distinguish the Chinese-Russian notification accord from "offensive agreements" in place …