BEIJING - China and the United States resumed their once-stalled defense consultations on Thursday in Washington in a further sign of the thawing of a stalled military-to-military ties between the two countries after a massive arms sale plan was announced by the US to Taiwan at the beginning of the year.
Analysts said that in addition to bilateral military ties, discussions on regional hot-button issues - including Korean Peninsula tensions, and the upcoming visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to the US - will be high on the agenda during the consultations.
Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates' long-expected visit to China is set to be in January next year, as announced by Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff in Tokyo on Thursday. "I would hope that we can sustain that military-to-military relationship - as opposed to what it has been, which has been on-and-off over the years," Mullen said.
Beijing broke off military ties in January over the US announced plans to sell more than $6.4 billion worth of arms to Taiwan. The US has since been trying to resume military contacts.
In June, China reportedly rejected a proposed visit by Gates, saying it will invite him "at a proper time".
The two nations have also exchanged harsh words on naval drills by the US in seas close to China and on Chinese territory in the South China Sea.
Yet the ties started to warm up in mid-October when Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie met Gates in Hanoi before the inaugural meeting of Asia-Pacific defense ministers. Liang invited Gates to visit China early next year.
Headed by General Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of the general staff of the People's Liberation Army, and the US Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy, the 11th annual round of defense consultations starting on Thursday, is to "exchange views on military ties, maritime military security and other international and regional security issues", said the Chinese defense ministry.
Peng Guangqian, a Beijing-based military strategist, said the US should show sincerity and give up its "Cold-War mindset" if it really wants to improve the two nations' military ties that have been going on-and-off.
"The biggest barrier lying between the two nations is the lack of strategic mutual trust," Peng said. "It is worth noting that the US's military deployment is closer to China recently, making the security environment around China worse."
Zhou Wa, Reuters and Xinhua contributed to this story.