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After earthquake, China welcomes U.S. military

As Defense Secretary Robert Gates heads to Singapore, the Pentagon sees a turnaround in the Chinese security forces.

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China's response to the May 12 earthquake that killed thousands has pleasantly surprised some US officials and forced them to view the country and its sometimes mysterious military with fresh eyes.

The Chinese government has not only accepted US aid graciously, but also has allowed the US military to have a new level of communication with its Chinese counterparts, for the first time using a new "hot line" created to increase discussion among Chinese and American military commanders.

The new signs of cooperation come as Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, travel to Singapore for Friday's regional security talks that are expected to have a different flavor in light of the recent developments in China.

Adm. Timothy Keating, who heads the US Pacific Command and has visited the country twice in the last year, said China's acceptance of aid and willingness to talk to US military leaders seems like a turnaround for a country that has been secretive and suspicious of inquiry.

"China's reaction here in the aftermath of this earthquake is different than China's reaction has been to other natural disasters in China," he told Pentagon reporters Wednesday. "While it is catastrophic and tragic, it nonetheless is an opportunity for us to increase and improve the communications we have with officials in China."

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