PEKING — China demanded today that Moscow set a timetable for the complete withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan and criticized a recent partial pullout as "void of practical significance."
In Peking's first official comment on the Oct. 15-31 Soviet withdrawal of six regiments, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Moscow was trying to sway world opinion.
"Recently, the Soviet Union has given wide publicity to its partial troop withdrawal from Afghanistan," the spokesman said.
"We consider that this action by the Soviet Union is designed to alleviate the pressure by the international community and therefore is void of practical significance.
"The way to settle the question of Afghanistan lies in the presentation of a timetable for troop withdrawals by the Soviet Union and the complete withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan as soon as possible."
The Foreign Ministry statement coincided with commentaries in the official Peking Review magazine and the Communist Party newspaper, People's Daily, describing the Soviet withdrawal as a "trick."
People's Daily said the Kremlin used the pullback of six regiments--6,000 to 8,000 troops--as a "feint" to deceive public opinion.
"But its trick can deceive nobody and world public opinion has exposed the true Soviet intention and demanded its rapid and unconditional withdrawal from Afghanistan," the paper said.
People's Daily and Peking Review cited foreign reports that a few months before the Soviets announced the withdrawal, 15,000 new combat troops equipped with advanced weapons had been sent to Afghanistan.
China views Afghanistan and the estimated 54 Soviet divisions along Sino-Soviet border as two of the "three major obstacles" blocking the normalization of ties with Moscow. The third obstacle is Moscow's support for the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia.