China and the U.S. have announced plans to set up a military hotline similar to the one that linked the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
The phone link will help Washington and Beijing avoid misunderstanding in the event of a crisis in the Pacific.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, in Beijing on a 3-day visit, told reporters that he and China’s Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan had reached agreement on setting up the link, a dedicated 24-hour phone line. But Cao did not say when the line might be put into operation, the Washington Post reported.
A crisis over Taiwan, which receives arms from the U.S. and is regarded as part of China by the communist government, could be the most likely impetus for use of the hotline.
In 2001, an American reconnaissance plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet off southern China, leading to a freeze in contact between the U.S. and Chinese militaries that has gradually thawed in the intervening years.
China and the U.S. had set up a similar direct link for their national leaders in 1998, but it was not used following the 2001 incident, the Financial Times reported.
A former Bush administration official said members of the American national security team were then unaware of the hotline.
During their meeting in Beijing, Gates and Cao also agreed to increase exchanges between their military schools and to hold joint disaster relief exercises.
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