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US, China to Resume Military Contacts

A senior U.S. military commander has announced that the United States and China have agreed to resume routine military contacts and high-level visits by defense officials, and that he expects the process to begin within the next two months.

The commander of U.S. forces in Asia, Admiral Timothy Keating, told reporters the agreement was reached during the two-day U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue that ended Tuesday here in Washington.

"There was clear agreement on the need and the desire to resume those talks," he said. "There are several high-level military visits - from Beijing to Washington, Washington to Beijing - that are in their final stages of planning. I can't go into, I'd rather not go into the specifics as to when or who. But I can assure you they're in the very final stages of planning."

Admiral Keating said the renewed U.S.-China military talks will be highlighted by a meeting under the Military Maritime Consultative Agreement between the two countries. For two days this week, the admiral participated in the U.S.-China Dialogue, which was led by officials from the U.S. Departments of State and Treasury, and their Chinese counterparts. Keating also met with a rear admiral representing China's defense forces.

China suspended routine military contacts and high-level defense visits with the United States last October, after the announcement of a U.S. arms sale to Taiwan. Since then, there have been several incidents at sea, in which Chinese boats have harassed U.S. ships in international waters near the Chinese coast. In addition, China denied entry to Hong Kong to several U.S. Navy ships, including two that were low on fuel during a storm.

Last month, a senior Defense Department policy official visited Beijing to begin the process of mending military relations.

And Admiral Keating indicated that during Monday's Strategic and Economic Dialogue meeting, there was a considerably warmer atmosphere than had existed at the time of the maritime incidents a few months ago.

"A statement was made by a Chinese delegation official yesterday [Monday] that no country can develop sound policy if they try and do so in isolation," he said. "And I think that's a great way of addressing the sense all of us feel, the desire, to get back together again and discuss exercises, discuss personnel exchanges, discuss responses to humanitarian assistance crises and the provision of disaster relief."

The admiral said both the Chinese and U.S. presidents are committed to renewing bi-lateral military ties and that officials are working on the final details of how to do that as soon as possible.