China scaled back military ties with the United States after the Obama administration notified Congress in January of a plan to sell Taiwan up to $6.4 billion worth of arms.
In what some American officials took as a snub, China turned down a proposed visit by Gates aimed at mending fences during his trip to Asia this week.
U.S. officials have long described China as a “hard target” for intelligence-gathering. Gates, a former CIA director, acknowledged that the Pentagon was having difficulty reading the intentions of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
“My opinion (is) that the PLA is significantly less interested in developing this relationship than the political leadership of the country,” Gates told reporters on his plane as he arrived in Singapore to attend a major security conference.