The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, Admiral William Fallon, has invited Chinese military commanders to observe a U.S. military exercise next month in Guam. Admiral Fallon is in China for a visit aimed at restarting military cooperation between the two countries.
Admiral William Fallon said the unusual invitation for Chinese commanders to watch a U.S. military exercise next month would build confidence and encourage political leaders on both sides to improve military relations.
Speaking to reporters Monday in the northeast city of Shenyang, Fallon described the invitation as a level of transparency that lawmakers in Washington would like to see from China as well.
"What I think would be useful to the Congress would be demonstrated actions of reciprocation," he said, "steps that would continue along the lines of what I was allowed to do this time, for example… Continuing to expand the interaction, accepting some of these invitations to mix with not just ourselves, but others in the region."
Fallon said the two countries have recently exchanged visits by low-level military personnel, which he said he would like to see on a regular basis.
China-U.S. military exchanges have been limited, and high-level visits such as Fallon's rare, since a Chinese fighter jet and a U.S. surveillance plane collided off Southern China in 2001. The collision killed the Chinese pilot and forced the U.S. plane to make an emergency landing on Chinese soil.
Chinese authorities blamed the U.S. for the incident and detained the crew of the American plane for 11 days, marking the beginning of a chill in both military and political relations.
While general Sino-U.S. relations have warmed up considerably since then, U.S. officials have expressed concern about the Chinese military's lack of transparency.
China's official figures have shown an annual double-digit increase in military spending for the last decade, but analysts say real military spending is probably much higher.
Washington has also expressed concern over the hundreds of missiles China has aimed at Taiwan. China claims the self-ruling and democratic island is a breakaway province that must one day be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary. The United States has promised to help Taiwan defend itself against attack by the mainland.