Gates notes â€˜positive trajectoryâ€™ in US-China military relations By Associated Press, Updated: Friday, June 3, 2011. 3:51 PM SINGAPORE â€” Military relations between the U.S. and China are now on â€œa more positive trajectoryâ€ after recent setbacks, but the two countries should do more to strengthen ties and work together to solve regional problems, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday. In opening remarks at a meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Gen. Liang Guanglie, Gates said the two governments agree that the military aspect of their overall relationship is â€œunderdeveloped.â€ Some progress toward correcting that imbalance has been made in recent months, Gates said, noting his own visit to Beijing in January and other high-level defense exchanges. â€œAs I leave office at the end of this month, I believe that our military relationship is on a more positive trajectory,â€ Gates said. He noted that Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has accepted an invitation to visit China in July. In response, Liang told Gates that he, too, believes the relationship is improving. Reporters were escorted from the defense chiefsâ€™ meeting room before Liang finished his opening remarks. They met on the opening day of the Shangri-La Dialogue, the pre-eminent annual Asian security conference, where Gates will deliver a policy speech Saturday. In what Gates and others see as an encouraging sign, China for the first time chose to send its defense minister to the conference, now in its 10th year. Guanglie is scheduled to deliver a keynote address on Sunday, one day after Gates departs. A central theme of Gatesâ€™ message in Singapore is that Asian nations should not believe that impending U.S. defense budget cuts will lead to a smaller U.S. military presence in Asia. U.S. officials are concerned that some in the region could tilt toward China if they believe they are being abandoned by the U.S. or perceive less-sturdy assurances of American support in the long run. The main U.S. military presence in Asia is in Japan and South Korea, but Washington also has close military ties to the Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan and Singapore. The Pentagon is in the midst of an internal review of its force alignment in the region, with the outcome expected to call for a wider range of military exchanges, exercises and ship, aircraft and troop rotations in Southeast Asia. How that is achieved will depend to a large degree on how deeply the Pentagon cuts its budget in coming years. President Barack Obama on April 13 announced a plan to reduce defense spending by $400 billion over the next 12 years, and some in Congress â€” as well as some independent analysts â€” are calling for far deeper reductions. With an end in sight for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, defense savings are central to a broader effort to shrink government deficits. Gates has made relations with China a priority during his 4Â½ years as defense secretary, recognizing its increasing economic strength and a military modernization program that is proceeding apace even as the U.S. faces budget constraints. The US-China relationship is fraught with friction on many fronts: trade and economic policy, regional and global politics, and defense policy. The latest stir is over allegations that computer hackers in China broke into Googleâ€™s email system, and that personal Gmail accounts of several hundred people, including senior U.S. government officials, had been exposed.