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Hu's Tour to Help Enhance China's Friendly Ties with Central Asian Nations
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Chinese President Hu Jintao's three-nation tour next week will help to usher friendly ties between China and central Asian nations into a new age, a Foreign Ministry official said on Thursday.

Hu will visit Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Russia from August 14 to 18, during which he will attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit and observe an anti-terrorism military drill in Russia.

Leaders of the six member countries will sign a long-term good-neighborly treaty of friendship and cooperation at the SCO summit, Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Li Hui told a press briefing Thursday afternoon.

"The treaty will confirm the SCO spirits of pursuing peace and friendship generation over generation in the form of legal document, which is of great significance to the mutual trust and mutually beneficial cooperation in central Asia," said Li.

China has signed bilateral good-neighbor treaty with the other five SCO countries, namely, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan respectively.

"The multilateral treaty to be signed this time will have more binding force than the previous bilateral ones and lay a legal foundation for the good-neighborly ties among SCO member countries," said Xu Tao, a researcher at China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

During the summit, to be held in Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, the leaders will also discuss achievements scored by the organization since the 2006 Shanghai summit, blueprint future cooperation on security, economy and foreign affairs, and sign a series of economic and humanistic documents.

Hu's attendance of a joint anti-terrorism military drill, the largest of its kind since the founding of the SCO, is another highlight of his visit.

"President Hu will observe the anti-terrorism drill in Russia, which further shows China's will to join hands with central Asian nations to cope with challenges left from the Cold War era, "said Xu Tao,

The "Peace Mission 2007" drill, involving about 6,500 military personnel from all six member countries, is being carried out in Urumqi, capital city of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, and the Ural Mountains city of Chelyabinsk from August 9-17.

Besides Hu, heads of states of the other SCO member countries will also observe the live fire exercise on August 17, the first time in SCO's six-year history.

"This shows all six leaders have the common aspiration to safeguard the peace and stability in the region, "said Xu.

Analysts say although the overall situation in central Asia is good, the security and development environment there is worrying as terrorism, separatism and extremism remain active in the region.

"As a force with great potential influence in central Asia, the SCO is shifting to cope with non-traditional security issues," Xu said.

Experts refuted press reports in Western media on the so-called SCO threat. "The SCO is not and will never become a military alliance, "said Jiang Yi from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences."The so-called threat is nothing but Cold War mentality."

The SCO, founded in Shanghai in 2001, pledges to enhance security, trade, cultural, military and justice cooperation among member countries.

(Xinhua News Agency August 10, 2007)

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