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Gates Says US, China Military Relationship on 'Positive Trajectory'

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (2nd L) meets China's Defense Minister Liang Guanglie (R) at the 10th International Institute of Strategic Studies Asia Security Summit: The Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore June 3, 2011.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his Chinese counterpart General Liang Guanglie say they believe the military-to-military relationship between the United States and China is heading in the right direction.

The two officials met Friday on the sidelines of the sidelines of the 10th annual Asia Security Summit. U.S. officials described their meeting as "cordial."

Gates opened the talks by telling General Liang he was hopeful for the future of U.S.-Chinese relations.

“As I leave office at the end of this month, I do so believing that our military relationship is on a more positive trajectory,” said Gates.

He highlighted his visit to Beijing in January and other high-level defense exchanges, as well as the planned trip to China next month for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen.

General Liang said he also sees positive progress in Beijing's and Washington's military-to-military relationship.

According to Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell, the Chinese defense minister thanked Gates for his personal efforts in narrowing the gap in the relationship between the two countries.

Despite the kind words, Friday's meeting comes as U.S. authorities investigate the search engine Google's allegations that hackers from China stole email passwords of senior U.S. officials. Beijing has denied responsibility.

A senior U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said after the meeting that the two leaders discussed points of friction, including China's concerns over U.S. arms sales to Taiwan.

However, the official added that the two leaders did not discuss cyber issues.

Earlier in the day, Gates met with Japan's defense minister and Malaysia's prime minister.

He also held talks with Singapore's Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen, who joined Gates in voicing support for Washington's continued engagement in Asia and for its cooperation in addressing transnational security threats and enhancing regional security.

Gates is scheduled to deliver the opening address for the Shangri-La Dialogue Saturday morning.

This is his fifth and final Asia Security Summit as U.S. defense secretary before he steps down on June 30.