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Pentagon proposes China-US military hotline
Updated: 2005-04-29 08:20

The Pentagon has proposed that the United States and China set up a crisis hotline between their military establishments in high-level defense talks being held in Washington, US defense officials said.

A senior Pentagon official said on Thursday the Chinese in the past have set aside the idea of a direct, permanently manned telephone link between the defense ministers, but appeared to be giving it close consideration now.

"It seemed to us given our experiences with the EP-3, the tensions over Taiwan and a whole variety of other issues that it made common sense to establish a direct link of this nature," said the official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.

"We talked about it. We are going to be talking about that tomorrow, and pressing the issue, and hoping we can put something like this into place," the official said.

US and Chinese heads of state have been able to communicate over a similar hotline since the late 1990s. Last year, a direct telephone link was set up between the US secretary of state and the Chinese foreign minister.

Ties between the two militaries were severed for nearly two years after the April 1, 2001 collision between a US EP-3 surveillance plane and a Chinese fighter.

"We have routine communications and channels of communications. But in a crisis situation, or on a weekend or something like that, you simply can't activate on five minutes notice," the senior defense official said.

Thursday's defense consultative talks were the third since December 2002, and the seventh since the talks were first held in 1996.

The Chinese delegation was led General Xiong Guangkai, the deputy chief of the general staff of the Peoples Liberation Army. Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy, led the US delegations, which included representatives from the National Security Council, the State Department and the Joint Staff.

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