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US Defense Secretary Leaves For China

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has left Washington on a trip scheduled to take him to several Asian and European nations.

His first stop is China, where he is scheduled to meet with his counterpart General Cao Gangchuan and Chinese President Hu Jintao. Talks are expected to focus on military relations between the two nations.

Relations have been strained in recent years over the Taiwan issue, China's rapid military buildup and the 2001 collision between a U.S. surveillance plane and a Chinese fighter jet.

Mr. Rumsfeld is scheduled to tour the headquarters of China's Second Artillery Corps, which controls the country's strategic missiles. Chinese officials denied a request to visit the national military command center.

The Defense Secretary is also scheduled to visit South Korea, Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Lithuania.

Some information for this story provided by AFP and Reuters.