America’s most senior general has arrived in Beijing amid calls for closer ties with China’s fast-growing military.
The four-day visit by Marine General Peter Pace, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, follows recent US concerns over China's booming defence spending and the successful test of an anti-satellite weapon.
Arriving in Beijing on Thursday, Pace was welcomed by a full honour guard before beginning meetings with senior leaders of China's 2.3 million-strong armed forces.
He has said he hopes that the visit will build trust and confidence between the two sides.
"I'm looking for ways to respect China as a nation that deserves respect"
Marine General Peter Pace, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff
Speaking before his arrival in Beijing, Pace said he hoped that the visit would rebuild ties damaged by a mid-air collision between a US spy plane and a Chinese jet fighter over the South China Sea in 2001.
This month, China announced a 17.8 per cent annual rise in defence spending to about $45bn, prompting calls from Washington and Tokyo for Beijing to show greater transparency about its military aims.
The funding increase was the highest since 1995, although many military experts believe that real Chinese defence spending may be much higher.
The visit is the first by a senior member of the US military since China's test of a space weapon in January, in which a missile warhead blew apart a defunct Chinese weather satellite.
|Pace said the US wanted to build trust and |
confidence between the two sides [AFP]
The test was strongly criticised by the US, where officials said it called into question China's self-proclaimed opposition to the proliferation of weapons in space.
However, in a news conference on Wednesday, Pace said he did not regard China as a threat.
During his visit he said he planned to call for additional joint search-and-rescue exercises and expand contacts between officers, including having junior officers from China and the US attend courses together.
"When you get to know each other and know how each other thinks, you build trust and confidence," Pace told reporters in Japan.
"I'm looking for ways to respect China as a nation that deserves respect."
China’s People's Liberation Army has moved tentatively to re-engage with the US military in recent months, observing US wargames, restoring consultative ties on a range of issues and most recently joining the US in multinational anti-terrorism drills hosted by Pakistan.