By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 5, 2010 " In a sign that the U.S.-China military-to-military relationship is beginning to return to normal, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates may meet with his Chinese counterpart during meetings in Hanoi, Vietnam, next week.
The secretary will participate in an Association of Southeast Asian Nations defense ministers conference in Hanoi next week that also will include the association partner nations of Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia and the United States.
This forum will, for the first time, offer the opportunity for defense leaders from the region to formally come together and establish a regional security dialogue at the ministerial level, " Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said during a news conference today. A more regular exchange of views will help build trust and transparency in the region, which will be important as nations there continue to develop new, more advanced military capabilities. "
Morrell said Gates hopes to meet with his Chinese counterpart privately during the meeting. They will discuss continued progress in re-establishing U.S.-Chinese military-to-military ties.
The roadmap first goes through Hawaii " where China will participate in maritime consultative talks with U.S. Pacific Command officials -- and then to Washington, where Michele Flournoy, undersecretary of defense for policy, will host her Chinese counterparts, Morrell said.
The maritime talks will feature discussion on ways the United States and China can operate and cooperate on the high seas and in the air over them, Morrell explained. They will discuss search and rescue exercises and ways that U.S. and Chinese ships communicate.
The defense talks will be in November or December, Morrell said. Thus far, the talks have been largely focused on the mechanisms, the logistics, " he said.
The Chinese would like Gates to visit Beijing, Morrell said. They`ve asked us to look for opportunities in his calendar, " he said. We`re doing that right now, looking forward to reporting back on some possible dates. And our expectation is that we would be able to travel and engage with the Chinese as soon as possible. "