BEIJING - China and Russia sharply condemned US missile defense plans yesterday, taking a harder common line that reinforces an already strong strategic partnership during Dmitry Medvedev's first foreign trip as Russian president.
Pushing forward their robust energy cooperation, Russia also signed a $1 billion deal to build a uranium enrichment facility in China and supply low-enriched uranium for use in China's nuclear power industry over the next decade.
Rivals throughout much of the Cold War, Moscow and Beijing have forged close political and military ties since the Soviet collapse, seeking to counter the perceived US global domination. They have spoken against the US missile defense plans in the past, but yesterday's declaration by Medvedev and President Hu Jintao of China sounded tougher than before.
Without naming the United States, the two leaders said that "the creation of global missile defense systems and their deployment in some regions of the world . . . does not help to maintain strategic balance and stability and hampers international efforts in arms control and nuclear nonproliferation."
They also warned against the deployment of arms in space - another clear reference to the United States. "The parties stand for the peaceful use of space and against the deployment of weapons in space and arms race in space," Medvedev and Hu said in the statement released after an afternoon of talks.
The joint position appears to raise the stakes for Washington, which has been trying to persuade Beijing and Moscow not to see the missile shields as threatening. At the same time, the cooperation on diplomatic issues masks deep Russian unease at China's growing power and differences over military and energy sales.
The White House said yesterday that it is not disappointed that Medvedev has not changed the stance taken by his predecessor, Vladimir Putin.
"We're going to work with them to work through these concerns, and we think we can resolve any concerns that anyone has about this and the true nature of the program," said White House spokesman Tony Fratto.
Beijing has criticized US plans for antimissile defenses with Japan and Taiwan in the past, fearing that it would blunt China's large arsenal of missiles. But Beijing has mostly been content to let Russia take the lead publicly, knowing the planned deployment of missile defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic touch a core Russian interest.
The declaration reflected strong opposition to NATO's expansion to incorporate ex-Soviet states Georgia and Ukraine. "Security of nations can't be ensured at the expense of other countries through the expansion of military-political alliances," the two said.
After signing the declaration with Medvedev, Hu praised the countries' commitment to tackling security issues. "The two sides have always agreed to take the development of strategic cooperation and partnership as a priority."
Hu also thanked Medvedev and Putin, now Russia's prime minister, for the mobile hospital and rescue teams Moscow sent after the deadly May 12 earthquake in central China. "Between friends, there can be no other kind of relations," Medvedev said, offering more assistance.