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WASHINGTON, April 10, 2008 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates tested a defense telephone link to China for the first time, making a call to his counterpart there this morning. Gates talked “briefly” to the Chinese Minister of National Defense Gen. Liang Guanglie, Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said.

During the conversation, Gates congratulated Liang on his recent promotion to minister of national defense and welcomed “this important step in enhancing communications between our militaries,” Whitman said.

Gates and Liang also discussed increasing military-to-military relations and emphasized how “substantive dialogue” can avoid any miscalculations on the part of the two countries.

Liang expressed appreciation for aid provided by the United States during a severe winter storm suffered by China earlier this year, Whitman said.

“It demonstrates [that] overall the U.S.-China defense relationship continues to improve,” he said.

The two countries agreed to the link last year. The United States has more than 40 such links with other countries.

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