Gates to visit China next month

The Pak Banker - - 6international -

BEI­JING: China says U.S. De­fense 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 Jan. 1014. 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 U.S. sales of de­fense items to sel­f­ruled Tai­wan, which China con­sid­ers part of its ter­ri­tory.

Guan Youfei, deputy di­rec­tor of the for­eign af­fairs of­fice of China's na­tional de­fense min­istry, made the com­ments Fri­day dur­ing the 11th Chi­naU.S. deputy min­is­te­rial-level meet­ings in Washington.

The U.S. mil­i­tary chief, Adm. Mike Mullen, on Thurs­day an­nounced the ex­change of vis­its with no specifics.

China sus­pended mil­i­taryto-mil­i­tary con­tacts in Jan­uary over the U.S. sale of $6.5 bil­lion worth de­fense items to Tai­wan. But ties have slowly im­proved over re­cent months, and Chi­nese De­fense Min­is­ter Gen. Liang Guan­glie met in Oc­to­ber with Gates at a re­gional meet­ing of de­fense 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. "I don't un­der­stand much about what they are do­ing and why they are do­ing it." -Ap

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