The head of the U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Timothy Keating, is in China for a visit he says is aimed at further strengthening military relations, a task he personally began when he first visited China last May. He also acknowledges there are still points of contention, as VOA's Stephanie Ho reports from Beijing.
Admiral Keating said the overriding theme of his visit is to build confidence and trust with his Chinese counterparts. In comments to reporters Tuesday, he said he is developing a realistic relationship with General Guo Boxiong, the vice chairman of China's Central Military Commission.
"We're developing, I believe, an honest and true friendship, Admiral Keating said. "I can pick up the phone and call some of these guys. General Guo, he's going to be a pal. We've got differences. He acknowledges them. I acknowledge them. But we're working through them."
Keating praised Chinese military capabilities as "impressive." He says the United States is carefully watching China's military development.
"We are concerned about development of long-range cruise and ballistic missiles. We're concerned about anti-satellite technology, execution thereof. We're concerned about area-denial weapons," he said.
He says the U.S. is not as interested in knowing exactly what the Chinese military is capable of, as it is in knowing why and in what situation it would use certain capabilities.
Two issues dominated Keating's news conference - Taiwan, and China's decision in November to deny a Hong Kong port call by a U.S. carrier group.
China regards Taiwan a part of Chinese territory, and has threatened to use military force to bring about reunification. The United States agrees with Beijing that there is only "one China," but says it would help defend Taiwan, under certain circumstances, if it were attacked.
The U.S. sale of defensive weaponry to Taiwan is one of those areas of acknowledged disagreement between Beijing and Washington. Keating says the U.S. position remains unchanged, and he warned against any actions that would destabilize the status quo.
"There is one China," he noted. "We at the U.S. Pacific Command are particularly interested in whatever elements could be viewed as destabilizing."
He told reporters U.S. leaders were unhappy when Chinese officials denied permission last November for the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk to make a port call in Hong Kong. He says he was assured that the Chinese will give more favorable consideration to an upcoming request for a ship visit to Hong Kong.
From Beijing, the U.S. military leader also travels to Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong.