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US, China officials hold security talks

US and Chinese military officials have held security talks amid major differences over a wide range of issues, including North Korea’s recent attack on a South Korean island.

Undersecretary of Defense for Policy of the United States Michele Flournoy met with Deputy Chief of General Staff of Peoples Liberation Army General Ma Xiaotian in Washington on Friday for periodic military talks, Reuters reported.

“This meeting was part of a restart of US-China military to military relationship, which is a very important one,” Flournoy said.

“We have seen some gradual increases in China’s transparency and also in their candor with us,” said the American defense official.

“While I won’t say we agreed on every issue, where we did differ, we had a very candid and frank and productive exchange of views,” he added.

According to Pentagon officials, the United States and China made progress in sharing information on military capabilities and in the tone of discussions as defense officials made a push to bridge the chasm that emerged following US arms sales to Taiwan.

“We heard the Chinese also embrace the idea of the value of having a steady and reliable and sustained dialogue,” Flournoy went on to say.

Earlier this year, the US administration approved an arms sales package to Taiwan worth more than $6 billion, under which Washington will sell 114 Patriot missiles, 60 Black Hawk helicopters and communications equipment for Taiwan’s F-16 fleet.

Defense ties between China and the United States have been strained — particularly after North Korea launched an artillery barrage on Yeonpyeong Island on November 23, killing two South Korean marines and two civilians.

The latest overture comes as US officials have blasted China’s unwillingness to tighten the screws on North Korea over its recent attacks on South Korea, while China has hit back at the United States for its refusal to talk to Pyongyang officials.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates is scheduled to pay a visit to China next month in a bid to allay misgivings between the world’s two largest economies over hot-button issues such as North Korean denuclearization and military exercises in the Korean Peninsula.

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