China and the Soviet Union disclosed yesterday that an armed clash occurred along their tense border in Central Asia last week, and each blamed the other for causing the incident.
One Chinese was killed and another wounded in what was the most serious border incident in more than a year.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry delivered a stiff protest note to the Soviet Embasst in Peking charging that Soviet frontier guards ambushed and killed a Chinese official and wounded a veterinarian who were inspecting sheep pastures along China's border, according to the New China News Agency. The two Chinese were then carried into Soviet territory, the note said.
The Soviet news agency Tass said later yesterday that four armed Chinese soldiers were intercepted by Soviet troops half a mile inside Soviet territory. It said one officer of the Chinese security forces was killed and another soldier was wounded and captured with documents and weapons.
The incident took place on July 16 in a remote thinly populated frontier region between Soviet Kazakhstan and China's Xinjiang (SinKiang) Province.
Analysts here noted that the incident comes at a time when both Peking and Moscow were preparing for bilaterial negotiations due to open in Moscow later this summer.
The Chinese note was sharper in tone, accusing Moscow of deliberately staging a "serious incident of provocation and bloodshed" which was "wholly prearranged by the Soviet side." The note also cited several other Soviet border violations.
Since the two countries are discussing "concrete arrangements" for the forthcoming Moscow talks, the Chinese note said, "this cannot but draw the serious attention of the Chinese side."
The first Soviet statement of the incident came only after China made public its protest. The relatively mild reaction suggested a Moscow desire to avoid dramatizing the incident which could presumably spoil the atmosphere for the Sino-Soviet Talks.
Tass also described the Soviet protest to the Chinese Embassy in Moscow as a "represenation," a much milder diplomatic move than China's formal note of protest.
The long Sino-Soviet border has been the site of recurring armed clashes in 1969, when Chinese and Soviet forces clashed on the Ussuri and Heilongjiang Rivers as well as in the Kazakhstan-Xinjiang area.
Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin made a surprise stopover at the Peking airport in Stepmeber 1969 for talks with the late Chou En-lai. The two men agreed to open talks on border issues but these have failed to yield results.
Another border incident on the Ussuri River occurred in May 1978 when Soviet border guards intruded into Chinese territory and wounded several Chinese in the ensuing clash. Moscow subsequently apologized for the incident saying that its soldiers were lost. That incident coincided with the last session of the border negotiations.
Last week's clash followed Peking's decision to open negotiations in Moscow on bilateral relations. The Chinese ambassador in Moscow was given deputy foreign minister status so that he could lead the Chinese delegation.
Analysts here said that the incident flies in the face of what appears to be the interest of both sides to redefine their relations. They said that the clash may have been an accident or that there may be elements in Moscow or Peking that would like to see the forthcoming talks derailed.
Another possibility is that the Chinese decided to publicly denounce Moscow over the recent border clash in an effort to gain tactical advantages before the talks open and possibily prepare grounds for raising the border issue with the Russians.
While expressing readiness to normalize relations with China, the Russians have consistently refused to discuss territorial questions with the Chinese, who hold that Moscow had acquired substantial parts of Chinese territory under "unequal treaties" concluded in the 19th century.
The Chinese statement yesterday said that the latest incident took place in an area that "is not a disputed area, for the boundary alignment there is clear." It said that a Soviet helicopter intruded over the same Chinese region on June 30 and circled at low altitudes to disperse Chinese flocks.
"The Soviet side also pulled down Chinese herdsmen's living and production facilities such as houses and sheep pens in the said area. This shows that all these Soviet activities are not isolated or accidental but are designed to create tension and threaten the safety and life of the Chinese border inhabitants," Peking said. It asked for the return of the wounded Chinese. CAPTION: Map, no caption, The Washington Post