US Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Thursday he will visit Beijing this month to prepare a US-China summit amid signs that ties between the two countries were entering a more productive and stable period.
In an interview, Powell said ``the force which causes us to cooperate is more powerful than the force that may cause us not to cooperate.''
Sino-American relations were plunged into crisis early in the administration of President Bush when a US Navy spy plane bump into a Chinese fighter jet, causing the death of the Chinese pilot, and then landed on Hainan Island without China's permission on April 1.
There also had been increased tensions over Bush's decision to sell advanced weapons to Taiwan.
But in recent days China concluded a hard-fought World Trade Organization membership agreement and allowed the US spy plane to be flown home.
On Thursday, Chinese President Jiang Zemin talked with US President George W. Bush on the phone. The two Presidents exchanged views on China-US relations and issues of common interest.
A US official said it is believed to be the first telephone call from Bush to Jiang and that the gesture was ''indirectly'' linked to the spy plane, which arrived at a Georgia air base to be reassembled and expected to be returned to service.
``The whole (spy plane) incident is completely off the screen now and we can focus on this important, complex relationship,'' the official said.
A Powell aide, Policy Planning Director Richard Haass, made an unannounced trip to China this week for talks with a senior foreign ministry strategic planner.
Powell, speaking with Reuters reporters and editors at the State Department, confirmed Haass's visit and said the talks ''went well.''
Haass's talks were wide-ranging, including counter narcotics efforts, Taiwan, weapons proliferation and crisis management.
Powell will meet Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan in Hanoi later this month at the annual meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and also hold detailed talks with him in Beijing, where Bush and Jiang plan an October summit.
The secretary said he did not know if the administration's missile defense plans came up in Haass's meetings but he intended to discuss the subject when he goes to Beijing.
On improving ties with Beijing, Powell said the two countries have a ``mutual interest in removing these irritants in our relationship.''
``We have large areas of interest with respect to trade, economics, our views on the security situation in the region. There is every incentive for us to remove these irritations so we can pursue these issues,'' he said.
Powell stressed that disagreements remain and will be debated during his coming trip.