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Learning English - Words in the News
29 December, 2008 - Published 12:36 GMT
Beijing - Moscow hotline 'used for first time'
A red phone

A new military hotline between Beijing and Moscow has been used for the first time according to reports in the Chinese state media. A senior Chinese officer discussed a range of topics with his Russian counterpart, Xinhua the state news agency reported. This report from Chris Hogg:

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In a world where emails and mobile devices mean you can always be in touch with the office, it seems strange that two of the world's most important military powers have only now started using a direct telephone link designed to make it easier for their senior officers to contact each other.

No doubt security concerns and diplomatic issues had to be resolved first. But in huge bureaucracies it's not always easy to get to the man in charge in a hurry.

The hotline will now make that easier, allowing what the Chinese describe as "timely communication on significant issues". Put simply they can now pick up the phone when there's a crisis and ask the Russians what's going on and what they're doing about it.

This first historic call was not so urgent apparently. The two soldiers exchanged views on the international and regional situation, bilateral relations and other issues of common concern.

There is still no hotline between China's Armed Forces and the Pentagon in Washington. The two countries' presidents first agreed to set one up nearly three years ago. A further agreement was signed between the two defence departments in February but since then progress on establishing it appears to have stalled.

Chris Hogg, BBC News, Beijing

Listen to the words

be in touch with
communicate with

security concerns
worries about the safety of information

diplomatic issues
political decisions about who can talk to whom

to be resolved
to be agreed upon

organisations or countries which have many complicated and confusing rules for doing things

a crisis
a very difficult political situation, an emergency

not so urgent
not so important

to set one up
to begin a telephone hotline

stopped before successful completion

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