Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Tuesday assured lawmakers that the United States is ready to handle any Chinese military threat, even as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called for increased US engagement with Beijing. Gates, speaking at a Senate hearing, said that US forces "have the capability in place to be able to deal with any foreseeable Chinese threat for some time to come." Clinton, meanwhile, told reporters at the State Department that the Bush administration's dialogue with China "turned into an economic dialogue," referring to former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's Strategic Economic Dialogue, high-level discussions that have been held twice a year starting in late 2006. "We need a comprehensive dialogue with China," Clinton said. Economic engagement, she added, is "a very important aspect of our relationship with China, but it's not the only aspect our relationship." The Obama administration is "going to be working together in the government across our agencies to design a more comprehensive approach that will be more in keeping with the important role that China is playing and will be playing," Clinton said. Trade ties between the United States and China often are tense. President Barack Obama's treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, said recently that Obama believes China is manipulating its currency, which American manufacturers say Beijing does to make its goods cheaper for U.S. consumers and American products more expensive in China. But while the United States has pushed China to live up to what the Bush administration considered its duties as an emerging global superpower and a veto-holding member of the UN Security Council, Washington and Beijing find themselves increasingly intertwined in a host of crucial economic, military and diplomatic efforts. A key worry in US-China ties is Taiwan. China and Taiwan split in 1949 during a civil war, but Beijing considers the self-governed island a part of its territory and is determined to get it back, by force if necessary. The United States supplies Taiwan with weapons. Beijing has in past years lobbed missiles in an attempt to intimidate Taiwan. China also maintains double-digit annual percentage increases in the budget for the 2.3 million-member People's Liberation Army. Gates said the Defense Department is making good progress on developing a "number of programs" meant to counter Chinese technological advances that could "put our carriers at risk." He did not elaborate on those programs. But he said US forces are well positioned in the region, mentioning the nuclear-powered USS George Washington - a floating air base with 67 aircraft and an armory carrying about 1.8 million kilograms of bombs, which has a new home port in Japan.