Liang Guanglie, Chinese Minister of Defense, has extended an invitation to US Defense Secretary Robert Gates at an ASEAN meeting of Defense Ministers in Hanoi.
The move comes as ASEAN members, plus invited nations China, Japan, Russia and the US as well as other regional players met to address issues of security facing the Asia Pacific. The invite is seen as an easing of the tensions building in the region of late. It is also a resumption of high-level talks between the US and Chinese military wings, after China suspended military contact over the sale of weapons to Taiwan by the US.
The Chinese have also said that talks with Japanese counterparts also proved to be productive. The tensions between the long-standing rivals have been high of late, after a Chinese fishing vessel collided with a Japanese patrol boat in waters which are claimed by both nations.
The US has used the ASEAN meeting to send a message of support for Southeast Asia. Speaking to students at Hanoi’s Vietnam National University, Secretary Gates said:
"I think all Asia can be confident that the U.S. intends to remain engaged in Asia as we have been for so many scores of years before and that we intend to be an active party, not only in economic and political matters but also in defense and security matters."
One of the key issues Secretary Gates is pushing is for the resolution of the myriad sea and island disputes held between numerous Asian nations, as he fears that if any of these disputes get out of hand, it could hurt one of the world’s heaviest trafficked sea lanes.