China and the United States on Thursday held their eighth annual round of defense consultations on building closer military ties.
"This forum is one of the most important forums for the interactions between the two defense ministries," said Assistant to the U.S. Secretary of Defense Peter Rodman, who is leading the U.S. delegation.
Zhang Qinsheng, assistant chief of the General Staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), headed the Chinese delegation.
As part of the growing China-U.S. military ties, Thursday's
consultations came a month after a visit to China by Commander of U.S. Forces in Pacific William Fallon.
During his visit, Fallon invited a Chinese delegation to observe a U.S. military exercise in Guam in June, the first invitation of this kind extended by the United States.
"This is a positive signal worthy of attention in China-U.S. military relations," said Yang Yi, Director of the Institute for Strategic Studies, National Defense University of China.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said on Thursday that China has accepted the offer to observe the exercise with the code name of "Valiant Shield 2006".
"The improvement of our military-to-military relations is necessary because it is an important part of improvement of our overall relations," Rodman said at the beginning of Thursday's consultations.
The U.S. delegation includes representatives from the Defense Department, the Joint Staff, the Pacific Command and the State Department.
"Our delegation is a large one because we have a lot of useful businesses we can do together," Rodman said, stressing this year is "a good year in fulfilling the commitment of leaders of the two countries".
Officers from the Chinese Defense Ministry, Navy, Air Force, the Second Artillery Force and the General Staff of PLA attended the consultations.
"The two sides held candid, friendly and constructive discussions on international issues, regional security, bilateral ties and military construction," said a statement issued by the Chinese Defense Ministry after the one-day closed-door consultations.
"This is a successful meeting," Rodman said. "Both sides had a number of specific ideas of new areas of cooperation or new activities."
"The China-U.S. military exchanges like Thursday's defense consultations will help boost the mutual trust and promote China-U.S. constructive and cooperative relations," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao.
The annual consultations began in 1997, following an agreement between then-Chinese President Jiang Zemin and his U.S. counterpart Bill Clinton.