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China, U.S. resume defense talks after 18 months suspension
2009/06/23

     Defense officials from China and the United States met here Tuesday, June 23 for the first highest-level defense dialogue since the Obama administration took office.

    "This is an important meeting held at a crucial moment, " said Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of the General Staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, at the beginning of the 10th round of Sino-U.S. defense consultations.

    The 11-member U.S. delegation was led by Under-Secretary of Defence for Policy Michele Flournoy, who is in charge of the formulation of national security and defense policy.

    The exchanges between the two armed forces have gone through difficulties and setbacks since China and the U.S. forged diplomatic ties 30 years ago, Ma told Flournoy.

    "Looking forward, we believe that our military ties will surmount the difficulties and continue moving forward under the framework of the positive, cooperative and comprehensive Sino-U.S. relationship," he added.

    The Sino-U.S. defense consultations were suspended after the Bush administration announced a 6.5-billion-U.S.-dollar arms package for Taiwan last year.

    High-level military talks resumed in February, when David Sedney, a U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense, visited Beijing.

    This round talks marks the resumption of the deputy-ministerial level defense consultations. The last such meeting was in December 2007.

    Ma said the Chinese side is willing to exchange views in a candid and practical way with the U.S. delegation on the issues of common concern.

    Before the talks, the Chinese Defense Ministry said the two sides will talk on bilateral military relations, Taiwan issues, international and regional security issues and other issues of common concern.

    The two-day talks will also cover the situation on the Korean Peninsula, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a routine news briefing Tuesday afternoon.

    "Under the current situation, it is natural for China and the U.S. to discuss the situation on the Korean Peninsula," said Qin. "We take this consultation seriously and hope that positive results may come out of it."

    Among the Chinese participants were officers from the army, navy and air force as well as some military scholars.

    The U.S. delegation to the talks included officials from the Defense Department, the State Department, the Pacific Command and the Joint Chief of Staff.

    Since its inception in 1997, the mechanism has become an important channel for the two defense ministries to enhance mutual trust, communication and cooperation.

    Flournoy will also meet Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie before leaving for Seoul of the Republic of Korea Friday.

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