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US Defense Secretary Calls China Talks Productive

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates talks while visiting the Great Wall in Mutianyu, China, 12 Jan 2011

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is in Tokyo, following three days of meetings in China that he called productive.

Gates declared that his talks aimed at mending damaged ties between the US and Chinese militaries were successful.

"I think the discussions were very productive and set the stage for taking the military to military relationship to the next level," he said.

Gates spoke to reporters on the Great Wall Wednesday, his last stop in China before leaving for Tokyo.

Earlier in the day, Gates made a rare visit to China’s nuclear warfare headquarters, which maintains control over nuclear and conventional strategic missile forces. Both the United States and China have missiles that can reach each other’s shores, although both nations say they have no intention of using the weapons that way.

Gates said his talks - which touched upon nuclear strategy and China’s overall approach to conflict - were wide-ranging and "open"” He met with top Chinese military leaders, as well as the foreign minister and President Hu Jintao.

"What came across to me was that both the civilian and the military leadership seemed determined to carry this relationship further, and build upon it," said Gates. "Are there those who have issues with it? Possibly. But I certainly didn’t meet any of them on my trip, and I’m very encouraged going forward."

China Wednesday repeated its assurance to the United States that the first test-flight of its new stealth fighter jet one day earlier should not be seen as a threat.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai told reporters that other countries should not be concerned about the advanced fighter.

Cui says the development of the aircraft is not targeted at any other country. He also says the timing of Tuesday’s test flight had no relationship to Gates’ visit.

Gates is the first U.S. defense secretary to visit China in five years. China last year pulled out of military talks and withdrew an earlier invitation to Gates to protest a U.S. arms sale to Taiwan, a separately governed island that Beijing considers part of Chinese territory.

After meetings in Tokyo, Gates travels to South Korea Friday before heading home.