"We are in strong agreement that in order to reduce the chances of miscommunication, misunderstanding or miscalculation, it is important that our military-to-military ties are solid, consistent and not subject to shifting political winds," Defence Secretary Robert Gates told a joint media conference in Beijing with Chinese Defence Minister General Liang Guanglie.
Gates began his four-day visit on Monday with an elaborate meeting with Liang during which he directly took up US fears over rapid development of Chinese military forces including the development of new missile to destroy aircraft carriers. His visit is expected to provide an opportunity for two countries to improve military ties, which suffered some frictions over the past year. It was also seen as preparatory visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to Washington from January 18 to 21.
Liang said he and Gates had "agreed that sustained and reliable military-to-military contacts will help reduce misunderstanding and miscalculation." But at the same he asserted that China's military hardware development is targetting no other countries and poses no threat.
Asked by a US reporter whether China wanted to counter the US military engagement in Asia by developing weapons, Liang said Beijing had made progress in building its military might and had developed weapons to meet its sovereignty and security requirements. However, he said, China still lagged far behind developed nations in terms of weaponry and rejected claims that China's military development was a threat.
Dressed in his military uniform, Liang said he expected other nations to objectively judge China's military modernisation. China reported to have made progress in building a new stealth fighter jet and US has already expressed concern over the new ballistic missile that could destroy aircraft carrier from about 3,200 km.
Ahead of his visit, Gates told reporters on Sunday that China had the potential to "put some of our capabilities at risk." "We have to pay attention to them. We have to respond appropriately with our own programmes," he said.
Both Gates and Gen Liang denied that US and China were involved in an arms race.
Chinese state television reported that during the talks, the US has sought to open regular discussions with China on nuclear, space and cyber weaponry. The Chinese military has expressed that the Taiwan issue is a core interest, so it will urge the US not to continue selling weapons to Taiwan.
China views Taiwan as a rebel province that must be reunified with the mainland even by force. Another issue related to China's interests is growing US involvement in and around the South China Sea.
The two sides have different interpretations over maritime rights in the area. The situation on the Korean Peninsula is also a common concern. The US has acknowledged that China's unique role makes it a key player in regional peace and stability, it said.
Later, Gates called on Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping who was expected to succeed Hu next year. In the next three days in Beijing Gates would meet HU and Vice chairman of the commission Xu Caihou as well as Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi.
Gates will also visit the command of the Second Artillery Force of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, China's strategic missile strike force.