The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, Admiral William Fallon - on a visit to China - suggests that Beijing's ongoing military buildup might be too extensive for a country not facing any outside threats.
For the past several years, China has been overhauling its military, each year spending tens of billions of dollars on purchases of fighter jets, destroyers, missile systems, nuclear submarines and other hardware, primarily from Russia.
Visiting China for the first time since assuming command of the U.S. forces in the Pacific six months ago, Admiral William Fallon appeared to question why the Beijing government is spending so much on arming itself.
"I'm not about to sit here and determine what percentage of GDP or how many yuan or whatever ought to be devoted, but my sense is that I don't see a particular threat to China, so military capabilities expansion, [it] seems to me, ought to be commensurate with the growth and development of a country," said Admiral Fallon.
Chinese officials this year said they had raised military spending by 12 percent, although analysts say the real figure is probably much higher. At the same time, officials said, GDP growth this year has been around 9.5 percent.
The Pentagon issued a report in July saying China's military expansion might threaten others in the region, such as Taiwan - a self-ruled island that Beijing considers a part of Chinese territory and has threatened to take by force.
Chinese analysts responded angrily to that report, accusing the United States of trying to contain China. The U.S. commander on Wednesday dismissed such assertions as - in his words - "nonsense." Holding up a glass of water to emphasize his point, he said perceptions in the United States vary on whether or not China is a military threat.
"People have a tendency to always look at things one of two ways," he said. "This is almost full, or it's almost half empty. I choose to take the positive, optimistic view, that we can make almost anything we want of relationships."
Admiral Fallon, whose meetings this week included discussions with Chinese military officials and Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, said both sides agreed that the two countries need to have broader military cooperation.
The U.S. commander said that as political and economic ties have deepened, the military-to-military relationship between the United States and China has been lagging. He said it is critical for both sides to have a relationship of openness and transparency, saying that will be the way to reduce anxiety and suspicion.