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First Military Policy Dialogue Held with US

A two-day closed-door policy dialogue between the defense ministries of China and the US began in Beijing on Monday, the first of its kind.

It involved Zhang Bangdong, director of the Foreign Affairs Office (FAO), and Richard Lawless, US deputy under secretary responsible for the Asia Pacific region.

"It was a candid and pragmatic talk, with the US describing its global military deployment and China its military modernization," said FAO spokesperson Tu Qiming at a media briefing on Monday afternoon.

"We also exchanged views on the Taiwan issue and maritime military security," said Tu, director responsible for American and Oceanic affairs. "Both sides are opposed to Taiwan independence and agreed to promote military ties through more pragmatic exchanges."

This year will see the exchange of top military officials, professional staff and military institutions and discussions on installation of a hotline between the two ministries, Tu said.

When asked whether US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will visit this year, Tu said he had expressed an interest, but that the exact date was still under discussion.

Tu denied that they had discussed the EU's possible lifting of its 15-year arms embargo this year.

Prior to the meeting, Lawless said the US hoped for "real progress" on a wide range of military issues. After the meeting, he declined to be interviewed and no other US officials released any further information.

This morning, Lawless is scheduled to meet Xiong Guangkai, deputy chief of the People's Liberation Army general staff.

A senior Russian delegation is also having closed-door military talks with China this week with the first-ever joint exercises likely to be on the agenda.

"We will hold our first joint command staff exercises with the Chinese army in August or September involving various forces to practice issues involving fighting our common enemy - international terrorism," Russian First Deputy Defense Minister Colonel General Alexander Belousov said over the weekend.

(China Daily, Xinhua News Agency February 1, 2005)

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