Mikhail S. Gorbachev Wednesday promised a new era of peace in the Far East, said the Red Army would reduce its forces in the area and urged Washington to pull its soldiers out of South Korea.
As the Soviet president spoke, a mighty flood of more than 1 million Chinese poured into the streets to demonstrate for democratic reforms in China and took control of the center of Beijing.The mass protest prevented Gorbachev from touring the Forbidden City and forced him to call off a scheduled news conference.
In his speech to Chinese academics in the Great Hall of the People, Gorbachev said the 4,300-mile-long Soviet-Chinese frontier should be turned into a "border of peace."
Gorbachev's historic visit to Bei-jing is to normalize relations after a 30-year chill between the two largest communist countries.
In a nationally televised interview, Gorbachev said his summit talks went well "despite all the tensions." He made a point of acknowledging receipt of a letter from the student protesters, saying it was "a very warm letter, full of feelings of support for perestroika (reform)."
He steered clear, however, of any comment on the demonstrations themselves in keeping with the Soviet position that they are an internal matter for Chinese authorities.
Gorbachev also called for establishment of joint trade ventures between Beijing and Moscow.
During a trip outside the city to visit the Great Wall, Gorbachev's motorcade passed waves of demonstrators making their way in trucks, buses, by bicycle and on foot toward downtown.
Within hours, central Beijing streets were crammed with students, workers, teachers and journalists swelling out of central Tiananmen Square into the streets to march for democracy.
Gorbachev and his wife, Raisa, canceled plans to tour the Forbidden City. And in the late afternoon, after some journalists spent two hours getting through the crowds to the Great Hall where Gorbachev was to hold a news conference, the session was called off.
Afterward, two student representatives met with government and party officials and said they were optimistic an agreement would be reached on their demands, which include formal talks with the government to be broadcast live.
Officials said Gorbachev would meet reporters sometime later at the state guesthouse, outside the city center.
In his speech a day after the first Sino-Soviet summit since 1959, Gorbachev called for a regional security network in Asia that would provide a means of settling disputes.
And he said an earlier pledge to withdraw 200,000 troops from Asia would be fulfilled by the end of 1990 and would include the pullout of 12 divisions, or 120,000 soldiers, from the China frontier.
The Soviet Union is believed to have 600,000 troops along the Chinese border. The Chinese, armed with older equipment, have more than 1 million troops stationed there.
Gorbachev said 11 air force regiments would be disbanded and 16 warships removed from the Pacific Fleet.
Gorbachev added that the Soviet Union is "prepared to work for the withdrawal, on terms to be agreed with China, of military units and armaments from the border areas, leaving only the personnel required for performing routine border guard duties."
"Demilitarizing the Soviet-Chinese border and turning it into a border of peace and good-neighborliness is a noble goal that we could attain through joint efforts," he said.