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US Pacific Commander Seeks More Military Contacts With China


The head of the U.S. forces in the Pacific says he wants to see more military-to-military contact between the United States and China. Admiral William Fallon says that is one way to strengthen the relationship between the two countries.

After a week of meeting with military officials in China, U.S. Navy Admiral William Fallon says that he wants more of his troops to have a chance to meet their Chinese counterparts.

Admiral Fallon spoke Sunday in Hong Kong where he wrapped up his first visit to China as head of the U.S. Pacific Command.

The admiral told reporters here that the United States and China now have extensive political and economic ties, but their militaries know little about the other.

"And I think it is time that we changed that,” said Admiral Fallon. “I got ready agreement from PLA leaders in Beijing, and as I went around to other places in the country and met with the senior military leaders, in every instance, they also agreed."

The admiral says contact is the best way to avoid making incorrect, and possibly dangerous, assumptions about each other's armed forces.

But the Pacific commander also repeated a concern he voiced in Beijing about the rate of China's military spending. Admiral Fallon says he understands the need to modernize forces, but that without a specific military threat to China, it seems excessive to increase spending by more than the rate of economic growth.

Chinese officials say military spending rose 12 percent this year, although many outside experts think it is higher. The nation's gross domestic product has been growing at about 9.5 percent this year.

Admiral Fallon underscored that the United States is not trying to contain China as Washington realigns its global forces, particularly in Asia.

The U.S. military, which plans to close or consolidate many domestic bases, is talking with its allies about the status of its overseas forces, particularly in Japan and South Korea. Admiral Fallon says those talks aim to make sure that deployments meet modern needs, including the fight against terrorism, and are not simply holdovers from the Cold War.

But he said no decisions had been made regarding possible changes to U.S. forces in Japan or on a proposal to move an aircraft carrier to the U.S. state of Hawaii or the Pacific island territory of Guam.