The United States on Monday gave a cautious welcome to the historic signing of a Russia-China friendship accord, saying it posed no particular threat and might even be in Washington's interest.
In Moscow, Chinese President Jiang Zemin and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin signed their first such accord in half a century and reaffirmed their opposition to US plans to deploy a national missile defense system.
"Just because Russia and China have entered into an agreement does not necessarily mean it's something that would be adverse to the interests of the United States," said Ari Fleischer, spokesman for US President George W. Bush.
Russia and China "have a long border in the region, and it's important for them to get along, so we don't see it as any particular threat to us or to our plans," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.
The summit talks between Jiang and Putin, which followed a successful weekend test of the US anti-missile system that was condemned in both capitals, also produced a new 20-year treaty between the two nations.
The broad Good Neighborly Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation, replacing an outdated 1950 version that failed to prevent a 1969 border war, commits China and Russia to "mutual efforts to support global strategic balance and stability."
Fleischer said "we are not in a world ... where it's a zero-sum game any more," adding, "if Russia and China find ways to cooperate peacefully and make the world a more secure and stable place, that's in the United States' interest."
Jiang and Putin also signed a joint statement reaffirming their opposition to Bush's plan to build a missile defense shield in breach of provisions of the 1972 ABM accord signed by Moscow and Washington.
Language in the new treaty spells out that the new Moscow-Beijing entente it is not aimed "against any third state," nor does it entail bilateral military and military technical cooperation.
"It's a treaty of friendship, not an alliance. It doesn't have, you know, mutual defense in it or anything like that, and we've never felt that this was a zero-sum game," said Boucher.
"We felt that it's important for us to have good relations with Russia and with China, and we've always felt it's important to them to have good relations with each other."
Washington responded to Chinese and Russian condemnation of the missile test by reaffirming the US commitment to go ahead with plans for a missile shield.
"The point is to reach some kind of understanding with the Russians," said Boucher. "Ultimately, the United States intends to go forward, and we've made clear that we have the right to withdraw from the treaty if necessary, but we'd like to work this out, and the goal is to try to work this out with the Russians, and then the exact form of that could be a variety of things."
Boucher indicated the United States was still hoping for agreement to modify the ABM treaty, or to replace it with some other codified agreement, but was prepared to unilaterally abandon it.
"We've talked about getting beyond the constraints of the treaty. How exactly that gets codified or not codified ... that remains to be seen," he said.
Talks on an agreement about the treaty are scheduled to take place on the sidelines of the upcoming G8 summit. US Secretary of State Colin Powell and Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov are scheduled to meet Wednesday in Rome ahead of a scheduled meeting between Bush and Putin in Genoa.
The plan to pursue the costly and technically challenging missile project received a boost from the test over the Pacific late Saturday when a dummy ballistic missile was destroyed in flight.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld used the successful outcome of the test to ask Congress Monday for more money and to announe that the Pentagon will conduct 20 missile interception tests over the next five years.