SHANGHAI -- China and the US signed an agreement on Friday to set up a long-planned military hotline, the Ministry of National Defense said.
The two sides will move forward to install the actual equipment in the next few weeks, the US consulate general in Shanghai said in a statement. "We anticipate the line will become operational this month (March)."
Xinhua quoted defense ministry officials as saying: "The hotline is aimed at providing instant contact between Chinese and US defense and military leaders on major issues, especially during emergencies."
The agreement was signed after a two-day meeting, chaired by Maj-Gen Qian Lihua, director of the defense ministry's foreign affairs office and Charles Ray, US deputy assistant secretary of defense.
"We welcome this important step forward in enhancing communication between our militaries," the US consulate general said. The hotline will be a useful tool to "avoid miscalculations".
Discussions on setting up the hotline have been going on since President Hu Jintao and his US counterpart George W. Bush agreed to advance bilateral military ties during their meeting in April 2006. The two sides reached a consensus to set up the hotline during US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' visit to China in November 2007.
During the talks, Qian urged the US to stop arms sales to Taiwan and be alert on Taiwan authorities' reckless secessionist moves.
Chinese analysts see the military hotline as "an extremely significant event" in Sino-US relations. "One of the biggest issues between China and the US is to avoid miscalculation," China Foreign Affairs University professor Wang Fan said.
"The hotline will ensure direct and timely communication between the two militaries, which is very important for China-US security cooperation and crisis control in East Asia."
Memo on Archives
The two sides also signed a memorandum on military archives' cooperation to find US military personnel missing in the Korean War (1950-53).
The Ministry of National Defense, however, did not give details of the memorandum.
At a press conference in the US consulate general in Shanghai, American officials said the US and China have been working together for years to find those missing in action.
"We have been working with the Chinese government cooperatively on this mission since 1992, during which time we have recovered and identified the remains of 23 missing Americans," Ray said.
"What this arrangement does is to formalize the working relationship that exists and opens another avenue of research into information about the fate of Americans who were imprisoned in war camps."
Ray said that under the framework of the memorandum, Chinese archivists will carry out research at the request of the US.
Meetings will be held in the US and China, and the results will not be shared with a third country without the consent of both.