The Pentagon described the talks as "productive"
US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has called for a lasting dialogue with China's military after meeting a top Chinese general at the Pentagon.
A Pentagon spokesman said Mr Gates told China's Gen Xu Caihou the two sides should "break the on-again, off-again cycle" in their military relationship.
The talks marked the highest bilateral military contact since 2006.
Last year, Beijing halted military dialogue with Washington to protest against US arms sales to Taiwan.
China has also criticised US surveillance of waters off the Chinese coast.
"There is a need to break the on-again-off-again cycle of our military-to-military relationship," said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell, briefing reporters on Mr Gates' talks with Gen Xu, vice-chairman of the People's Liberation Army Central Military Commission.
China has been rapidly expanding its armed forces
In the past, there had been progress "and then there will be a hiccup that will cause there to be a suspension" in military co-operation, Mr Morell said.
The spokesman described the talks as "productive", adding that Mr Gates accepted Gen Xu's invitation to visit China.
Meanwhile, US officials - who were speaking on the condition of anonymity - said Gen Xu was open to boosting military co-operation, but reiterated "obstacles" to deepening ties, such as the presence of US surveillance ships off China's coast.
Speaking earlier this week, Gen Xu said that China did not want "hegemony" or an arms race.
Washington has repeatedly urged China to be more open about its rapidly rising military spending.