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China, US set to resume military contacts

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BEIJING (PTI): China and the US are set to resume high-level military contacts after a 10-month freeze, with Defence Minister Liang Guanglie to meet his American counterpart Robert Gates on sidelines of an ASEAN meeting in Hanoi next week.

A Chinese Defence Ministry official confirmed that Liang would travel to Vietnam to attend a security conference and meet Gates at the Hanoi meeting to break the thaw in the ties that Beijing had broken off over the US arms sale to Taiwan.

Liang is scheduled to meet Gates on the sidelines of the security conference, which will begin on Tuesday, Guan Youfei, deputy director of Foreign Affairs Office of China's Defence Ministry, told a press briefing here.

Defence chiefs from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and eight other invited countries would meet at Hanoi and Indian Defence Minister A K Antony will also attend the conference.

The meeting is expected to pave the way for Gates to visit Beijing with a larger delegation to resume high-level defence dialogue between the two countries.

A Pentagon official Tuesday said the two were likely to meet but Washington awaited confirmation from Beijing.

The meeting known as ASEAN Defence Minister (ADMM) plus eight others, China, South Korea, Japan, Australia, India and New Zealand and Russia and the US is due to take place on October 12.

Officials are tight-lipped about the likelihood of a meeting between Liang and Antony as India has "put on hold" all defence exchanges with Beijing following the denial of visa to a top Indian General to attend a meeting here on the ground that he headed troops in Jammu and Kashmir.

The denial of visa was part of a policy being pursued by China since last year to issue stapled visas to people from Jammu and Kashmir on the ground that it was disputed territory.

The meeting also assumed significance following assertions by Liang made during recent China-Vietnam defence interaction expressing hope that the ADMM + 8 would become a new platform for ASEAN and other countries in the region to jointly deal with non-traditional security challenges and strengthen mutual trust and cooperation.

China cancelled defence exchanges with US as a mark of protest against Washington's sale of USD 6.4 billion weapons to Taiwan, which China regards as part of its territory.

Sino-US relations had also soured after President Barack Obama held a meeting with Dalai Lama earlier this year.

Gates earlier wanted to visit Beijing as part of his Asian tour four months ago, but Beijing did not give a nod.

He later criticised China's policy saying that permanent dialogue is more important and it should not be held hostage to US arms sale to Taiwan.

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