Relations between the United States and China are improving overall. But, at the same time, American officials say they are worried about what they see as "very tight" relations between Beijing and Moscow. The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission held a hearing in Washington on China's military modernization.
Assistant Secretary of Defense Peter Rodman says there has been what he described as good cooperation in the U.S.-China military relationship.
"I accompanied Secretary Rumsfeld to China in October, and we agreed to expand military to military contacts - high-level visits, ship visits, most importantly, from our point of view, exchanges of officers, personnel," said Peter Rodman. "We think both sides would gain by having more interaction. We would learn about them and perhaps they would learn more about us."
But, in testimony to the congressionally-mandated U.S. China Commission, Rodman said there also have been recent developments that have sparked the Pentagon's concern.
"There was a Sino-Russian military exercise last year, which we wanted to be observers at and the Chinese declined to invite us," he said. "There were some exercises with the Hong Kong police, that we used to participate in, that they're not letting us participate in."
He said he understands Russian foreign policy may be driven by what he described as post-Cold War resentments against the United States. But he urged Moscow not to completely shut out Washington.
"So, they're tight [close] with the Chinese and that's their choice," noted Secretary Rodman. "I think, in the long run, we hope Russia is always aware that it has a western option, that we don't think it inevitable that our relationship with Russia be competitive."
The Defense Department official said he believes China acquires much of its high-end military equipment from Russia. But he also expressed concern that China has been shopping for dual-use military technology in other European countries. He said he is encouraged, though, by ongoing discussions on the subject between the United States and Europe.
"The good news I suppose is that the Europeans have put this [sales to China] off for awhile, and we [have] begun what we call a strategic dialogue with Europe about Asia policy, which is to have this discussion, not in a vacuum, but to start with, what are the premises of our respective attitudes to China," he said. "Do we have the same strategic perception of China, and what the problem is?"
Meanwhile, he added that the United States has what he described as an understanding with Israel, in terms of Israeli trade with China. He said Washington, in his words, feels comfortable with the most recent Israeli assurances.
An angry China last year protested Israel's cancellation of a Sino-Israeli arms deal, which was scuttled following U.S. pressure.