Russia to benefit Much from Hand Over of Islands to China

Russia to benefit Much from Hand Over of Islands to China

Azerbaijan, Baku, 18 July/ Trend , corr E. Tanriverdiyeva, R. Agayev/ The decision of Russia to give back part of the islands in Amur, which disputed territory, is necessitated by the fact that it is beneficial for Moscow to have good-neighbor relations with Beijing and probably pragmatic reasons and long-term interests of Russia stand behind it.

There are politically powerful interests in Moscow that benefit from large Russian arms sales to China, and those interests are not inclined to jeopardize their profits by antagonizing China over this border issue, John J. Tkacik, Jr, US researcher in Asian Studies, believes.

At the beginning of the next week the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will pay an official visit to Beijing where the parties will discuss the hand-over part of the islands in the Amur River to China. The agreement with this regard was signed between Moscow and Beijing in 2004. 

According to experts, by handing over islands to China, Russia first of all thinks of the benefits in its relations with China. "The point is not the benefit from the territorial concessions. It is beneficial for Russia to have good-neighbor relations with China, and well-defined borders approved by both sides. If territorial exchange is required for this purpose, it is considered profitable investment in the future," Nikolai Petrov, expert of Carnegie Center of Moscow said to Trend .

According to expert, the agreement on the Russian-China borders and the fact that the border has been defined on the government level is considered a big achievement of Russia's policy. For many years, this problem remained unsolved and small number of Russian population on one side of border and over 1 billion of Chinese population on the other could not but make Russian military men and politicians worry about it, Petrov said.

Experts disagree on whether hand-over of islands to China was timely and profitable for Russia.

Beijing and Moscow have decided to solve territorial disputes realistically by division of disputed territory, Zhang Jiadong, a Ciense expert said. There are many criticisms both in China and in Russia. Some Chinese think China would lose some part of disputed territories forever and consider Beijing as national betrayer. Some Russians have similar impression toward their government, he said.

"Personally, I think no one lose in this case. China and Russia are doing a win-win model in dealing with disputed territory," Jiadong, Associate Professor of the Center for American Studies, Fudan University based in Shanghai, China, wrote in his comments for Trend via e-mail.

The political experts also point to the important fact of hand over of only small part of territory which historically belongs to China, which is doubtless, beneficial for Russia.

According to Pertov, the point is the very short, local and small territorial exchanges and determining border lines on equal basis and the scale of this territorial exchange is totally incommensurable with the possible claims made by the radical organizations of China.

The US expert Tkacik believes that Russia did not only lost territory, but also it gained.

"Because the 174 square kilometers that Russia is now returning to China still does not give China access to the navigable river Channel, I do not see that it presents a particular "territorial loss" to Russia," Tkacik said. "By returning less than half the area to China, they could claim Russia has actually made a net gain, expert said.

According to experts, the historical aspects also account for the hand-over of lands. The Chinese expert Zhang Jiadong said that these islands in the Amur River are not territory of Russia and China.

"They are "disputed territory" between China and Russia. According to the historical evidences and international law, many islands on the Amur River should belong to China," Jiadong said.

Tkacik also said that this territory historically belongs to China. According to the US expert,perhaps, the Russian Foreign Ministry reviewed its files from 1929 and agreed that Russia had illicitly occupied the islands then.

"My own view is that the Red Army occupied the islands in 1929 in an attempt to ensure the Soviet Union had control of the riverine navigation channel of the Amur and Ussurri rivers, and could defend the major river port of Khabarovsk, in case Manchuria were ever to come under hostile control,"Tkacik said.

The only reason for Moscow's worries can be possible attacks by China to Russia's territories.

"Russia believes that it could fight a military battle on the islands. A Chinese invasion across the land boundary of the Island (Bolshoi Ussuriski) would be easier than an invasion of the island from across the river. The city of Khabarovsk is right across from these islands, and the defense of Khabarovsk from a Chinese land attack would be slightly more complicated with the Chinese also occupying dry land on the Island,"Tkacik said.

The tarabarov island and part of the Bolshoi Ussuriski island were under dispute since 1991 and the borders between Russia and China of 4km were not demarcated for the whole of this period which created tension in relations between the two countries.

"Both Chinese and Russian leaders are wise enough because they have to maintain a fine balance between "actual control" and "historical right" based on international law. They are also courageous enough to face strong criticizes and oppositions at home. In most cases, demand of the public is always beyond government's capability," Zhang Jiadong said.

The correspondent can be contacted at: [email protected]   

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