China's defense minister at Pentagon for talks Monday
The Pentagon will host China's Defense Minister General Chang Wanquan for talks Monday at a time of "positive momentum" in military relations between the two countries, a US official said.
Chang was due to start his visit Friday in Hawaii where he was scheduled to meet the head of US Pacific Command, before heading to Colorado to the headquarters for Northern Command, which oversees forces in North America, officials said.
"The purpose of the visit is to sustain the very positive momentum that we've seen in the US-China mil-to-mil relationship that's really been present for the past year and a half or so," said a senior defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
US military officials have touted progress in the defense dialogue with China after years of false starts and say a counter-piracy exercise next week in the Gulf of Aden will see unprecedented cooperation between the two countries' naval forces.
Despite improving ties, US concerns over Chinese cyber espionage are expected to feature high on the agenda when Chang meets his American counterpart, Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel, in Washington on Monday.
At a security conference in Singapore in June, Hagel blamed the Chinese government and armed forces for snooping on sensitive US computer networks.
Some cyber intrusions "appear to be tied to the Chinese government and military," Hagel said in the speech.
But revelations about US electronic surveillance of Internet traffic and phone records, leaked by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, have made it more difficult for Washington to level accusations against Beijing.
Chang's meeting with Hagel and other senior officials and officers will allow "the two leaders an opportunity to have a robust exchange of views on a variety of issues in the US-China relationship," including Cyber security, the defense official said.
The talks are also likely to cover North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, territorial disputes in the South China Sea between China and neighboring nations as well as rival claims between Japan and China over islands in the East China Sea.
Hagel has been invited to visit China next year.