China's defense minister to visit US

Updated: 2012-05-03 07:43

By Zhao Shengnan (China Daily)

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China's defense minister to visit US 

State Councilor and Defense Minister Liang Guanglie meets US acting Undersecretary of Defense for Policy James Miller on Wednesday in Beijing. PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY

State Councilor and Defense Minister Liang Guanglie will pay an official visit to the United States from Friday to May 10, the Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.

It is the first high-level military exchange between the two countries since relations were hurt by the US' plan to sell arms to Taiwan last year.

During the visit, Liang will meet with US state and military leaders, and hold talks as well as a joint news conference with US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, the Defense Ministry's Foreign Affairs Office said in a news release.

Liang will also visit the US Southern Command, Fort Benning, Naval Base San Diego, the 4th Fighter Wing of the US Air Force, the II Marine Expeditionary Force of the US Marine Corps and the US Military Academy at West Point.

Liang said in the news release that he is looking forward to the visit, which aims to implement the consensus of the two countries' leaders on building a cooperative partnership of mutual respect and benefit.

The visit is also expected to enhance mutual understanding and trust, promote cooperation and push forward the healthy and stable development of bilateral ties as well as military ties, he said.

Liang on Wednesday met the visiting US acting Undersecretary of Defense for Policy James Miller, a member of US delegation in Beijing for the fourth round of the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue.

The US would like to work with China for the common interest of security and healthy bilateral military ties, an important part of China-US relations, Miller said.

The overall China-US relationship has maintained good momentum, while the military ties face a new development opportunity, Liang said. "Both sides need to expand common interests and resolve differences."

However, the US arms sale to Taiwan, an inalienable part of China, remains the biggest obstacle to normal military-to-military exchanges.

In 2010, China canceled military dialogue with the US after the Obama administration announced plans to sell $6.4 billion worth of arms to Taiwan, including Patriot air defense missiles and Blackhawk helicopters.

China-US military relations have warmed since 2011 through increased exchanges and cooperation. Former US defense secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen visited China in 2011, while Chief of the General Staff of the People's Liberation Army Chen Bingde visited the US in May 2011.

However, the ties were disrupted again when Washington said in September it would sell $5.85 billion in military hardware to Taiwan.

Beijing repeatedly asserted that the sale severely violates the three Sino-US joint communiques, particularly the principles specified in the Aug 17 Communique, in which the US agreed to gradually reduce its arms sales to Taiwan.

The military ties between China and the US are important for overall bilateral relations and the regional situation, said Ni Feng, deputy director of the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "Even they are not as mature as the economic and political ties between the two countries, but they've been much more normal than before."

Xinhua contributed to this story.