China and the United States on Monday clashed over US arms sales to Taiwan as top defence officials struggled to shore up fragile military relations. China pinpointed the weapons sales to Taiwan as the main hurdle to improving military ties with the United States, while US Defence Secretary Robert Gates voiced frustration at Beijing's stance.
The difference of opinion emerged after Chinese Defence Minister Liang Guanglie held talks with Gates in Hanoi, the first such meeting between the two nation's defence chiefs in almost a year.
Despite discord over Taiwan as well as China's stance on maritime disputes in the region, Liang confirmed an invitation to Gates to visit Beijing in coming months, and the Pentagon chief accepted, officials said.
China had rebuffed Gates earlier this year and called off a tentative visit in June, as part of a 10-month suspension in military relations.
China broke off defence ties with the United States in January over American plans to sell Taiwan more than six billion dollars' worth of arms, including Blackhawk helicopters, Patriot missiles and mine sweepers.
"The biggest obstacle in defence relations between the US and China is US arms sales to Taiwan," Guan You Fei, deputy head of external relations with China's defence ministry, told a news conference after the meeting.