China and the United States agreed on Wednesday to step up military exchanges at all levels after talks between the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific and Chinese military leaders.
"As an important part of bilateral relations, China-US military ties have gradually been restored and developed in recent years," Chinese Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan told U.S. Admiral William Fallon.
China-U.S. military ties were broken off in 2001 when a Chinese fighter aircraft was rammed and damaged by a U.S. surveillance plane over the South China Sea.
Fallon's visit, the second to China since he assumed his post last February, was expected to help warm U.S. military ties with China.
The planned 45-minute meeting between Cao and Fallon was extended to 90 minutes in order to cover a wide range of issues, sources with the Chinese Defense Ministry said.
China had always held a positive attitude on improving China-U.S. military ties, Cao said. Contacts between senior military officials, exchanges of military academies and mechanism-based exchanges between the two countries had gone ahead as scheduled.
Fallon said it was important for the United States and China to maintain sound and stable military relations.
He hoped the two forces would step up exchanges and contacts at all levels and promote mutual understanding and trust.
"As the Taiwan issue has a bearing on the core interests of China, China will ensure the peace and stability of Taiwan on the basis of the one-China principle and improve the relations across the Strait," Cao said.
"We will show the greatest sincerity and make the utmost efforts to strive for peaceful reunification."
Urging the United States to clearly oppose "Taiwan independence", Cao called for an end to U.S.-Taiwan military contacts and U.S. sales of advanced weapons to Taiwan.
Reaffirming the U.S. government's one-China stance, Fallon said he hoped the two sides across the Taiwan Strait would seek peaceful solutions to differences and refrain from conflict.
Fallon also invited a Chinese delegation to observe U.S. military exercises in the Asia-Pacific region.
Before his talks with Cao, Fallon met with People's Liberation Army Deputy Chief of Staff Ge Zhenfeng and Chinese Foreign Ministry officials.
The defense departments of China and the United States have restored a series of consultation mechanisms on maritime issues, humanitarian disaster relief and military environmental protection.
Last October, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld paid an official visit to China, his first since taking office in 2001.
This year will see an increased exchanges of military institutions and staff between the two forces, sources with Chinese Defense Ministry said, adding a senior Chinese officer would visit the United States in July.
The long discussions on installing a hotline between the two defense ministries were expected to produce a result this year,the sources said.
Fallon's weeklong trip will also take him to military academies and facilities in Xi'an, in Shaanxi Province, Hangzhou, in Zhejiang Province, and Shenyang, in Liaoning Province.
Fallon will give a press briefing in Shenyang at the end of his tour on Monday.