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China and U.S. defense chiefs will meet, resume military ties

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • They will meet on the sidelines of an ASEAN security forum
  • Beijing broke off military ties early this year
  • China was protesting the U.S. sale of arms to Taiwan
  • The U.S. defense secretary also is expected to strengthen ties by visiting Beijing next year

(CNN) -- China and the United States will resume high-level defense talks next week, signaling a warming of relations since Beijing broke off military ties early this year.

Chinese Defense Minister General Liang Guanglie and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates will talk in Hanoi, Vietnam, while they attend a security forum of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

"Liang is scheduled to meet Gates on the sidelines of the conference," said Guan Youfei, deputy director of the Ministry of National Defense's Foreign Affairs Office, according to Chinese state-run media.

Beijing broke off military contacts early this year to protest the U.S. sale of arms to Taiwan, which China regards as a breakaway province.

"It takes mutual respect and concern for each other's core interests to keep a healthy military relationship," Guan said at a news briefing Wednesday, according to China Daily.

Gates also is expected to further defense discussions by visiting China.

"I think, realistically, we're probably looking at early next year before we have a chance to get to Beijing," U.S. Defense Department spokesman Geoff Morrell said.

"The Chinese have expressed to us a desire to host the secretary. They've asked us to look for opportunities in his calendar. ... [O]ur expectation is that we would be able to travel and engage with the Chinese as soon as possible."

The ASEAN meeting in Vietnam will cover security issues in the region. But those discussions will not include territorial disputes over the South China Sea, Guan said.

"China holds a consistent stance that the South China Sea issue is not an issue between China and the ASEAN," he said.

Beijing says most of the South China Sea belong to China, disputing neighboring countries' claims. The clash over territorial waters and islands -- and the natural resources that go with them -- is a flash point in the Asia-Pacific region.

ASEAN is a political and economic organization consisting of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The talks in Vietnam also will include Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea and the United States.