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U.S., China Agree To Strengthen Military Relations


By Jim Garamone

U.S., China Agree to Strengthen Military Relations

The United States-Peoples' Republic of China annual defense consultative talks ended yesterday with the two nations agreeing to increase military-to-military ties, Pentagon officials said today.

Defense spokesman Bryan Whitman said the delegations -- led by Eric S. Edelman, undersecretary of defense for policy, and Lt. Gen. Ma Xiaotian, the People's Liberation Army's deputy chief of general staff for foreign affairs -- discussed U.S.-Chinese defense relations, regional and global defense issues and a "proposed dialogue on nuclear policy, strategy and programs."

The annual talks came a month after Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates visited China and spoke to Chinese leaders about better communications to enhance mutual understanding between the nations.

The talks also came after Chinese leaders refused to allow the USS Kitty Hawk carrier battle group to make a port visit to Hong Kong over Thanksgiving. Whitman said the port call incident came up as part of discussions on the importance of improving overall military-to-military relations. "I've talked about this for some time," Whitman told reporters. "The United States has expressed its concern and its disappointment over this, and we have moved beyond it."

Representatives from U.S. Strategic Command and China's 2nd Artillery Corps attended the talks to provide expertise on nuclear issues. "This led to a good, worthwhile discussion on a future dialogue on nuclear policy, strategy and programs," Whitman said.

U.S. officials brought up the issue of Iran and followed up on the proposal to implement a defense telephone link between Washington and Beijing, "with a goal of completing that in early 2008," Whitman said.

Both sides agreed to plus up defense exchanges between the nations, including increased interactions between mid-level and junior officers and increased exchanges between military educational institutions. The two sides also agreed to cooperate more closely on opening Chinese archives to U.S. researchers seeking information on Americans missing in action in U.S. wars in Asia, Whitman said.

"Overall, we expressed our efforts to move forward with our defense relations with China and to promote a constructive and cooperative relationship," Whitman said.

Edelman and Ma agreed the two sides would continue the discussions at the Defense Policy Coordination talks in February.

ENDS

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