United States Secretary of Defense Robert Gates left Beijing Tuesday, after meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao, concluding his three-day official visit to China aimed at enhancing understanding and trust in China-U.S. military ties.
Gates said the military-to-military relations between the two countries had made positive progress and were facing opportunities for further development, adding he hoped the armed forces of the two countries could strengthen dialogue, enhance mutual trust and promote the development of military-to-military relations.
Talks between Gates and his Chinese counterpart Cao Gangchuan on Monday "reached broad consensus".
"Mr. Cao and I discussed ways to build on positive momentum in our defense relations and how to use the interactions to improve communications and reduce the risk of misunderstanding," Gates said when meeting press with Cao after their talks.
"Progress in our defense exchanges will largely depend on the choices we make. I look forward to working with the Minister of Defense and other Chinese leaders to continue building mutual trust and confidence between our two countries," he said.
Defense Minister Cao hailed Gates' visit as "an important event in the exchanges of our two armed forces", adding he and Gates fully exchanged views on the international and regional situation and the general plan of future exchanges and cooperation, and reached broad consensus.
"Our talks were pragmatic, frank and fruitful. I believe Gates' visit will further promote mutual understanding between the two sides and enhance friendly exchanges and cooperation", said Cao.
A major consensus was the opening of a direct telephone link between the Chinese Defense Ministry and the U.S. Department of Defense, the first of its kind between China and another country at the defense ministry level.
Discussions on setting up the military hotline have continued since President Hu and U.S. President George W. Bush agreed to advance bilateral military relations during their meeting in April2006.
The officials said relevant professional departments of China and the U.S. had started consultation on technical issues regarding the opening of the hotline, and the two sides hoped to sign an agreement on the establishment of the hotline as soon as possible.
Experts believed the hotline will help enhance mutual trust and promote the development of China-U.S. military-to-military relations.
"The hotline can play an important role in the bilateral coordination of policies and avoiding misunderstanding," said Professor Zhu Feng, of Peking University.
The Taiwan issue was another major topic in meetings between Chinese leaders and Gates.
President Hu briefed Gates on China's stance on the Taiwan issue, saying the two sides should "properly handle the sensitive issues in bilateral relations".
Defense Minister Cao called on the United States to fulfill its commitments substantially, cease official and military contacts with the Taiwan authorities, stop selling weapons to Taiwan, and take concrete action to maintain peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.
He warned that if Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian dared to make major moves towards "Taiwan independence", China would take resolute action and firmly safeguard its national sovereignty and territorial integrity at all costs.
Gates said the U.S. government would not change its adherence to the one-China policy and the three U.S.-China joint communiques.
Cao and Gates also agreed to strengthen exchanges between military academies, young officers, and cooperation on finding Americans who disappeared during the Korean War.
Gates is the highest ranking U.S. military official to visit China since his predecessor Donald Rumsfeld visited. It was Gates' first visit to China since he was appointed Secretary of Defense in December 2006.
Gates is believed to differ from Rumsfeld on policies towards China. "Gates does not see China's military power as a threat, and he has been promoting defense and military exchanges between China and the U.S. since he assumed power. He pursues the policy of contact and dialogue," said Professor Zhu.