Signs U.S.-China military exchanges may resume

By William Wan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 8, 2010; 11:46 AM

Senior U.S. officials concluded a three-day visit to Beijing on Wednesday with both sides declaring that the talks have helped to steady the recently rocky U.S.-China relationship.

Among the most tangible outcomes of this week's talks are signs that exchanges between the two countries' militaries may resume in coming months. China suspended most military exchanges at the beginning of this year after the United States sold arms to Taiwan.

Both sides issued statements Wednesday that indicate a thaw in the chilly silence leading up to President Hu Jintao's planned visit to Washington at the beginning of next year.

Xu Caihou, vice chairman of China's Central Military Commission, met with deputy national security adviser Thomas E. Donilon on Wednesday and said that China values its military relations with the United States and that he hopes to keep dialogue open and improve exchanges with the U.S. military.

On the U.S. side, National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said in a statement, "The United States seeks to expand cooperation in the many areas where our countries' interests coincide while we will speak frankly and with respect when we disagree."

Quoting an unidentified Chinese diplomat, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post said that officials on both sides have finalized an agreement to work toward restoring military exchanges ahead of Hu's planned visit to Washington in January.

The U.S. delegation also met with Hu on Wednesday, the final day of the talks. While reporters were in the room, Hu told the U.S. officials: "I've heard your discussions have gone well. I'm sure that this visit will certainly enhance mutual communication and mutual trust."

This week's meetings in Beijing, which also included National Economic Council Director Lawrence H. Summers, came during a tense period in the U.S.-China relationship. The two countries' ties have been strained by differences on several fronts, including trade surplus and currency valuations, U.S.-South Korea military exercises near the coast of China and Obama's meeting earlier in the year with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

On Wednesday, Hammer said the three-day talks touched on many of those issues, including North Korea and economic differences, as well as Iran and global rebalancing.

On the currency issue, however, Chinese officials made clear in statements throughout the visit that China would set its yuan policy at its own pace despite "external pressure."

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