During Wednesday's meeting with a delegation from the Armed Services Committee of the US House of Representatives, Minister of National Defense Cao Gangchuan said that military links constitute an important part of bilateral relations.
"It is in the interest of both nations to develop military ties," said Cao. "It also promotes peace and stability of the region and the world."
Cao, who is also vice chairman of the Central Military Commission and a state councilor, said that only through exchange and communication can the two militaries deepen understanding and build trust.
Noting that the Taiwan issue concerns China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, Cao said the people of China will "show the greatest sincerity and do their utmost" to accomplish peaceful reunification.
"We are in firm opposition to all secessionist activities," said Cao. "We will never allow anyone to separate Taiwan from China through whatever means."
Co-heading the delegation, Randy Forbes and Ike Skelton both voiced their hope to step up military exchanges and reaffirmed the US' stance on resolving the Taiwan issue by peaceful means.
The delegation arrived in Beijing on Tuesday for a five-day visit as guests of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC).
The same day, William Cohen, US secretary of defense between 1997 and 2001, called for the two militaries to have an open attitude towards each other so as to increase transparency in an exclusive interview with China Daily in Beijing.
"We are going to compete in a variety of areas ... We should try to look for areas in which we can cooperate," he said, citing terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and the spread of nuclear technology as examples.
Cohen disclosed that the US military has proposed setting up a hotline to allow senior military officials from the two countries to contact each other directly to avoid or avert crises.
Cohen visited China in January 1998 and signed an agreement establishing a consultation mechanism to strengthen maritime military safety.
China has great intellectual capital, is undergoing a dynamic economic revival and is going to be a major player in the world, he said. With increasing economic power, it will inevitably shoulder social responsibilities as well.
Turning to relations between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan, Cohen said the situation is improving. "I think economic integration will bring about peaceful reconciliation. That has always been the hope," he said.
The total trade volume across the Taiwan Straits reached US$58.37 billion in 2004, up 30 percent on the previous year.
Cohen said the Bush Administration wants to maintain the status quo, meaning no unilateral action.
"'Taiwan independence' is not in the interests of Taiwan, and not in the interests of China and the US," he said.
He also endorsed the idea of direct cross-Straits flights, which are currently being discussed to ease travel during the Spring Festival (the Chinese new year).
(Xinhua News Agency, China Daily January 13, 2005)