BEIJING (AP) _ China and Russia have opened a direct presidential hot line to improve understanding between the former communist rivals, the Foreign Ministry announced Tuesday.

The secure telecommunications link, China's first with a foreign capital, will allow presidents Jiang Zemin and Boris Yeltsin to ``exchange views on bilateral relations and international issues at any time,'' Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao said.

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan signed an agreement for a U.S.-China hot line last week, but Zhu said he did not know when it would open.

China and the former Soviet Union engaged in a tense rivalry for the allegiances of the socialist world during the Cold War and fought border skirmishes in the late 1960s. Relations have improved steadily over the past decade.