Gates Receives, Accepts Invitation to Visit China

HANOI, Viet­nam, Oct. 11, 2010 — Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates said today that he has accept­ed an invi­ta­tion from his Chi­nese coun­ter­part to vis­it Bei­jing.

Gates told reporters trav­el­ing with him that Gen. Liang Guan­glie issued the for­mal invi­ta­tion dur­ing a bilat­er­al meet­ing today, though the tim­ing of the vis­it remains to be worked out.

The Chi­nese mil­i­tary sus­pend­ed its mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary rela­tion­ship with the Unit­ed States ear­li­er this year over U.S. arms sales to Tai­wan. Gates called today’s meet­ing a “good for­ward step” con­duct­ed in a friend­ly spir­it, and added that he empha­sized to Liang in today’s meet­ing his long-held belief that the dia­logue between the two mil­i­taries should be sus­tain­able regard­less of any ups and downs.

“I out­lined to him why I believe it’s impor­tant that, indeed, when there are dis­agree­ments, it’s all the more impor­tant to talk with each oth­er more, not less,” Gates said, “and [not­ed] the need for strate­gic dia­logue on every­thing from nuclear weapons and strat­e­gy to mis­sile defense and out­er space secu­ri­ty, as well as areas in which we can coop­er­ate.”

The sec­re­tary added that he point­ed out in the meet­ing that mat­ters such as arms sales to Tai­wan should­n’t dis­rupt the rela­tion­ship between the U.S. and Chi­nese mil­i­taries, because they are polit­i­cal deci­sions that don’t rest with the sec­re­tary of defense.

“If there is a dis­cus­sion to be had,” he said, “it is at the polit­i­cal lev­el.” And at that lev­el, he not­ed, Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma and Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Hu Jin­tao have pub­licly advo­cat­ed a sus­tained and reli­able mil­i­tary rela­tion­ship between their coun­tries.

“Hav­ing greater clar­i­ty and under­stand­ing of each oth­er is essen­tial to pre­vent­ing mis­trust, mis­cal­cu­la­tions and mis­takes,” the sec­re­tary said. “I believed it in the dia­logue with the Sovi­et Union over 30 years, [and] I believe it’s impor­tant with Chi­na as well.”

Pen­ta­gon Press Sec­re­tary Geoff Mor­rell said he could­n’t put a timetable on when Gates would vis­it Bei­jing, but “our desire is to do this as soon as pos­si­ble.”

Gates and Liang are in the Viet­namese cap­i­tal to attend the inau­gur­al meet­ing of defense min­is­ters from the Asso­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Nations and eight oth­er coun­tries with a stake in the region.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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