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US, China say military ties on positive path


SINGAPORE (AFP): US and Chinese defence chiefs has said military relations between the two countries had made some progress and were moving in a "positive" direction.

At the start of a meeting in Singapore, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates told his Chinese counterpart, Defence Minister Liang Guanglie, that military ties between the two countries were improving.

"As I leave office at the end of this month, I do so believing our military relationship is on a more positive trajectory," said Gates, who is wrapping up his tenure at the Pentagon after more than four years.

Presidents of both countries agreed that security ties represented an "underdeveloped" aspect of relations but "in recent months our two countries have made some progress towards rectifying this imbalance by jointly identifying areas of cooperation," he said.

Sitting across a table from the Pentagon chief, Liang said there had been "some progress" in recent months and praised efforts by both countries to lay the groundwork for better security ties.

As reporters looked on, Gates said that it was "critically important" to preserve a dialogue between military leaders to discuss areas of disagreement.

The conciliatory tone follows tentative signs that tensions were easing, with a top Chinese general touring US bases last month and Gates paying a visit to Beijing in January.

However, US arms sales to Taiwan have been a recurring sticking point, and China has suspended ties whenever Washington announces new weapons deals.

Despite the positive comments at Friday’s talks, the issue could once again scupper attempts to forge a dialogue as US senators are pushing to sell F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan.

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