China and the United States agreed Monday to open a direct telephone line between the defense ministries of the two countries.
China's Defence Minister Cao Gangchuan (R) shakes hands with visiting US Defense Secretary Robert Gates after a news briefing in Beijing November 5, 2007. [Agencies]
Chinese Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan and visiting US Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates made the announcement at a joint press briefing after holding talks in Beijing Monday morning.
The Sino-US military hotline is the first of its kind that China has ever established with another country at the defense ministry level.
Discussions on setting up the military hotline have been going on since Chinese President Hu Jintao and US President George W. Bush agreed to advance bilateral military relations during their meeting in April, 2006.
The opening of the military hotline will help enhance mutual trust between the militaries and promote the development of military-to-military relations between China and the United States, said Tao Wenzhao, researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
However, some analysts said Washington remained concerned about China's rapid military expansion, despite Beijing's insistence that it is committed to peaceful development as its economy booms.
Gates arrived in Beijing late last night on the first stop of his week-long Asian tour, which will also take him to the Republic of Korea and Japan. He will meet with President Hu Jintao as well as other top military officials in Beijing.
Before he started the China trip, Gates said he did not consider China a military threat to America and relations between the two countries have warmed considerably since 2001, when a US spy plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet over the South China Sea, leading to soured relations between the Chinese and US militaries.
The ongoing visit is the first one for Gates as the US defense secretary. Gates was invited by Cao Gangchuan.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said last week at a regular news briefing that during Gates' visit Chinese military officials will exchange views with him on current regional and international security situation, relations between the two countries, the two militaries and other issues.
Hot issues to top the agenda are believed to include the Taiwan question and the nuclear issues of the Korean peninsula and Iran, observers said.
Military exchanges have become more frequent , including reciprocal high-level visits.
Commander-in-Chief of the US Pacific Command, Admiral Timothy Keating, made his first China visit in May after taking office on March 26.
In late March, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Peter Pace, made his first visit to China.
Last July, Vice-Chairman of the Central Military Commission visited the US, while the former commander of US forces in the Pacific, Admiral William J. Fallon visited China twice in 2006.