The chief of the U.S. military in the Pacific is in China for meetings with senior Chinese defense officials. Admiral Thomas Fargo is visiting while China and Taiwan conduct military exercises.
U.S. officials say the four-day visit by Admiral Thomas Fargo, commander of the U.S. forces in the Pacific, is part of a routine tour through the region that also includes Guam, Mongolia, and Japan. On Thursday, Admiral Fargo held a discussion with Chinese security officials. He is to meet with high-ranking civilian and military officials on Friday.
The admiral's visit comes amid growing anxiety among Beijing officials about what they say is rising pro-independence sentiment on Taiwan. China considers the self-governed island a part of its territory. Beijing has threatened to attack Taiwan if its president, Chen Shui-bian, and his government push toward full independence.
Reports say Chinese and Taiwanese forces have been carrying out a series of military exercises in the Taiwan Strait.
David Shambaugh is a politics professor at the George Washington University in the United States and is an expert on China's military. At a lecture in Beijing recently, he said China has been modernizing its military as mainland officials grow more worried about Taiwan.
"I sense this greater level of anxiety and impatience about the Taiwan situation and they feel that Chen Shui-bian has set out a timeline for independence, being 2006-2008, and that they themselves have to prepare to meet just such a timeline," said Mr. Shambaugh.
Professor Shambaugh says China's strategy for modernizing its military relies largely on studying foreign militaries, including that of the United States. U.S. and Chinese military officials have held frequent exchanges in recent months.
Despite this cooperation and overall good relations between the two countries, China has repeatedly stated its displeasure at the United States for selling weapons to Taiwan. The issue has come up at every high-level meeting between U.S. and Chinese officials recently.
U.S. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, on a visit to Beijing earlier this month, assured Chinese leaders the United States does not support Taiwan's independence.