U.S. Defense Secretary Hagel to make 4-day visit to China in April

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will visit China from April 7 to 10 to discuss bilateral and regional security issues, a Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman said Thursday.

The announcement by Geng Yansheng, who did not provide other details, was made at a time when China and Japan, a long-standing security ally of the United States, are still struggling to repair bilateral ties seriously frayed over territorial and historical issues, raising fears that an unintended confrontation could escalate into a bigger military clash.

Among other issues, Hagel is likely to discuss North Korea, which earlier this week launched two Rodong medium-range ballistic missiles, with his Chinese counterpart Chang Wanquan and other top officials.

Hagel is expected to visit China after attending a ministerial meeting in Hawaii with his counterparts from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Defense Department said Hagel will host the first U.S.-ASEAN meeting over three days from Tuesday. The Pentagon recently unveiled a plan to concentrate 60 percent of its naval fleet in the Asia-Pacific region by 2020.

After the ministerial meeting, Hagel is considering visiting also Japan and South Korea, before U.S. President Barack Obama's planed trips to the two countries in late April.