Beijing: China says US Defence Secretary Robert Gates will visit next month as the two militaries exchange high-level visits to boost communication following recent tensions.
The state-run Xinhua News Agency on Saturday cited a China military spokesman as saying Gates will visit from January 10 to January 14. The report said Chen Bingde, chief of the general staff of the People`s Liberation Army, will visit the United States next year at "a mutually convenient date”.
Gates had planned to travel to China during an Asia visit earlier in the year but China declined to officially invite him at that time, when relations were strained over recent US sales of defence items to self-ruled Taiwan, which China considers part of its territory.
Guan Youfei, deputy director of the foreign affairs office of China`s national Defence Ministry, made the comments on Friday during the 11th China-US deputy ministerial-level meetings in Washington.
The US military chief, Admiral Mike Mullen, on Thursday announced the exchange of visits with no specifics.
China suspended military-to-military contacts in January over the US sale of USD 6.5 billion worth defence items to Taiwan. But ties have slowly improved over recent months, and Chinese Defence Minister General Liang Guanglie met in October with Gates at a regional meeting of defence chiefs in the Vietnamese capital, Hanoi.
Recent military talks between the two sides have touched on the tensions on the Korean peninsula, security in the South China Sea and nuclear issues relating to North Korea and Iran.
"One of the very difficult parts of the China-US relationship right now is we have no military-to-military ties," Mullen, who is chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Thursday. "I don`t understand much about what they are doing and why they are doing it."