WASHINGTON, April 10 (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his Chinese counterpart Liang Guanglie on Thursday tested out a new hotline to improve communication between their militaries, the Pentagon said.
The Pentagon said the establishment of the hotline was "a reflection that the overall U.S.-China defense relationship continues to improve."
"Secretary Gates congratulated Gen. Liang on his recent promotion to minister of defense and welcomed this important step forward in enhancing communications between our militaries," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.
Liang took over the defense portfolio last month.
Despite the warm words, the Pentagon has repeatedly expressed concern about China’s rapid military modernization and called on Beijing to explain the reasons behind it.
China has dismissed U.S. concerns and said it is committed to a "peaceful rise" as its economy expands.
"Secretary Gates and Minister Liang also discussed building on the positive momentum in military-to-military relations, encouraging the trend of greater transparency at all levels in which substantive dialogue can help avoid any miscalculation," Whitman said.
The establishment of a hotline had long been discussed between Washington and Beijing and the countries’ leaders formally agreed last September to establish the link. (Reporting by Andrew Gray; Editing by Eric Beech)