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U.S. admiral visits Beijing

BEIJING -- The top U.S. military officer began a visit to Beijing aimed at improving chilly military relations with an appeal yesterday for a peaceful settlement amid tensions in the disputed South China Sea.

The visit by Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is the first of its kind in four years. The two governments are trying to improve military-to-military ties after setbacks over U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, cyberattacks traced to China and concern about Beijing's military buildup.

Speaking to reporters ahead of meetings with Chinese officials, Mullen said that sound ties between what he called the two "Pacific powers" are vital. He referred repeatedly to Washington's commitments to Asian allies and a prominent regional role. That indicated Beijing will face resistance to any pressure for a smaller U.S. presence as Chinese military power grows.

Beijing froze military relations last year after Washington announced an arms sale to Taiwan, the self-ruled island the communist mainland claims as part of its territory.

A thaw began when then-U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited Beijing in January, followed by a trip to Washington by Chinese President Hu Jintao. -- AP

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