China and the US on Thursday held their eighth annual round of defense consultations on building closer military ties.
"This forum is one of the most important forums for the interactions between the two defense ministries," said Assistant to the US Secretary of Defense Peter Rodman, who leads the US delegation.
Zhang Qinsheng, Assistant to the Chief of the General Staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA), heads the Chinese delegation.
As part of the growing China-US military ties, Thursday's consultations came a month after a visit to China by Commander of US Forces in Pacific William Fallon.
During his visit, Fallon invited a Chinese delegation to observe a US military exercise in Guam in June, the first invitation of its kind extended by the US.
"This is a positive signal worthy of attention in China-US military relations," said Yang Yi, director of the Institute for Strategic Studies, National Defense University of China.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Liu Jianchao said on Thursday that China has accepted the offer to observe the exercise with the code name of "Valiant Shield 2006."
"The improvement of our military-to-military relations is necessary because it is an important part of improvement of our overall relations," Rodman said at the beginning of Thursday's consultations.
The US delegation consists of representatives from the Defense Department, the Joint Staff, the Pacific Command and the State Department.
"Our delegation is a large one because we have a lot of useful businesses we can do together," Rodman said, stressing this year is "a good year in fulfilling the commitment of leaders of the two countries."
Officers from the Chinese Defense Ministry, Navy, Air Force, the Second Artillery Force and the General Staff of the PLA attended the consultations.
"The two sides held candid, friendly and constructive discussions on international issues, regional security, bilateral ties and military construction," said a statement issued by the Chinese Defense Ministry after the one-day closed-door consultations.
The statement said the two sides showed positive spirit and initiative in promoting bilateral military ties, and the consultations were helpful to boosting mutual understanding and trust.
"There are many things that came out of the meeting, which we will follow up on and at different levels," Rodman, who called eight "a lucky number" while referring to the eighth round on Thursday morning, said after the consultations.
"Both sides had a number of specific ideas of new areas of cooperation or new activities," he said.
"We also had very high-quality discussions on regional issues and issues about the nuclear policy," he said.
"The China-US military exchanges like Thursday's defense consultations will help boost the mutual trust and promote China-US constructive and cooperative relations," said spokesperson Liu.
Late on Thursday afternoon, General Liang Guanglie, Chief of the General Staff of the PLA, had a meeting with Rodman and his entourage.
China and the US are currently faced with good opportunities to develop military ties, Liang said.
He urged leaders of defense departments of both countries to consider the importance of military ties "from a strategic and long-term perspective."
"We should step up exchanges and promote military ties in an all-round manner and in various fields," Liang said.
"If we have questions or concerns, the right thing to do is to ask and discuss," Rodman told Liang.
The annual consultations began in 1997, following an agreement between then Chinese President Jiang Zemin and his US counterpart Bill Clinton.
(Xinhua News Agency June 9, 2006)