China's leading newspaper today openly prodded the Soviet Union to broaden the scope of current consultations to include the large strategic issues blocking normalized relations between the two giants of communism.
People's Daily, in an authoritative commentary, said Moscow's refusal to discuss its military presence in Afghanistan, Southeast Asia and Mongolia shows its unwillingness to take the steps necessary to lessen Sino-Soviet tensions.
The commentary, coming less than a week after high-level talks resumed in Moscow, is seen as a clear sign from Peking that the discussions will go nowhere until the Kremlin softens its negotiating stance. Diplomats said it is a pointed reminder of the political limits of the Sino-Soviet thaw even as the two sides broaden economic and cultural ties.
Moscow has tried to isolate the consultations to bilateral problems, claiming its policies in third countries--specifically, its support for Vietnamese troops in Cambodia and its stationing of Soviet forces in Afghanistan and Mongolia--have nothing to do with improving its relations with China.
People's Daily, however, said such an argument is a pretext either for sidestepping the central issues or for continuing policies that threaten China's security.
"The problems involving third countries," said the newspaper, "all stem from direct use of Soviet military force or Soviet support for another nation's use of military force or the deployment of Soviet troops in another country. They constitute a grave threat to China and the peace and stability of Asia."
Peking wants to air these problems in the talks, said People's Daily, not because it is trying to meddle in another nation's internal affairs, but because it seeks to remove the irritants from Sino-Soviet relations.
"If the Soviet Union really is sincere about improving relations with China," the commentary said, "it should not offer excuses or stall but should take a number of practical steps to eliminate the obstacles in the way of normalization."
Diplomats said the commentary significantly underlines the position Peking has voiced privately since talks with Moscow opened last October. By stating its policy to the Chinese public, the regime here compromises only at the risk of its credibility.
"They're telling the Russians they won't relent," said an Asian envoy. "What they want Moscow to realize is that any compromise will have to come from the Soviet side."