US military officials are seeking informal meetings with PLA counterparts during a visit to Hong Kong this weekend by Defence Secretary William Cohen, Pentagon officials said yesterday. The American side will be seeking to stress its concerns for a peaceful solution to the Taiwan issue and to secure continued ship visits. 'Any meeting with the PLA garrison or any other Chinese official in Hong Kong would be informal and part of a wider effort to keep up engagement,' one senior Pentagon official said. Military ties between Beijing and Washington are just starting to thaw after the freeze that followed the bombing of China's embassy in Belgrade last May. Mr Cohen will meet Tung Chee-hwa, Chief Secretary for Administration Anson Chan Fang On-sang and business leaders in the first visit by a defence secretary since the handover. He is expected to cover a wide range of topics, from the US desire for continued naval and air force visits, to vigilance against illegal trade transshipments. Hong Kong was forced to lobby US congressmen last year to avoid tough new export controls that could have limited hi-tech imports after criticism of its port operations in the Cox Report on Chinese espionage. One Hong Kong Government official said: 'Hong Kong can face all sorts of problems on Capitol Hill, so having a steady flow of senior officials and cabinet figures such as Mr Cohen through the SAR is very important to the way it is perceived in the US.'