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US defence secretary welcome: China

world Updated: Jul 01, 2010 14:25 IST

China's military said on Thursday it would welcome a future visit by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, state media reported, one month after a planned visit was called off.

"We still welcome him to visit China at a time which is workable for both sides," Xinhua news agency quoted General Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of the general staff of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), as saying.

The apparent olive branch comes after Beijing called off a visit by Gates in early June amid military tensions between the two sides, with Gates saying the cancellation showed the PLA was reluctant to engage on defence issues.

The Xinhua report gave no other information.

China has denounced US arms sales to Taiwan unveiled in January, and the cancellation of Gates' visit appeared to fit a pattern of stepping back from exchanges with the American military to convey displeasure.

After his visit was cancelled, Gates said there was a rift between Chinese civilian and military leaders on the issue.

Gates said it was his "opinion that the PLA is significantly less interested in developing this relationship than the political leadership of the country".

Gates had planned to visit Beijing as part of an Asian tour.