BEIJING - The commander of the
US Pacific Fleet began a visit to China on Monday in a trip aimed at
strengthening ties between the two navies and gaining insight into the Asian
power's military buildup.
The commander of the US Pacific Fleet
Adm. Gary Roughead [C] speaks to the media in Beijing, China, Monday,
November 13, 2006. Adm. Roughead began a visit to China on Monday in a
trip aimed at strengthening ties between the two navies and gaining
insight into the Asian power's military buildup. A man at right and woman
at left are not identified. [AP]
Roughead was scheduled to meet with China's military officials and help plan a
November 19 search-and-rescue exercise, the second half of a two-part operation
that began in the United States.
"The thrust of our discussions will really be in how our navies can gain a
better understanding of one another," said Roughead, who was visiting China the
first time since taking the post.
He also told reporters he "really would like to know what the intent is in
some of the developments" he's seen in the navy of the 2.3 million strong
People's Liberation Army, the world's largest.
Those include an expanding submarine fleet and procurement of ships that can
operate far beyond China's shores, he said.
"I look forward to having discussions on what the vision is and perhaps what
some of the operating doctrine might be," Roughead said.
In the past, Beijing has spent heavily on adding submarines, jet fighters and
other high-tech weapons to its arsenal, which despite its size, lags well behind
those of other major nations.
Its reported 2006 budget is $35.3 billion, compared with $532.8 billion in
defense spending signed by President Bush for 2007.
Visits between the Chinese and American militaries dropped off after the
collision of a US spy plane and a Chinese fighter jet off China's coast in 2001.
Relations have been improving recently as US leaders cautiously seek to
increase exchanges and better understand China's rapidly modernizing military.
The top U.S. Pacific commander, Adm. William Fallon, has visited China three
times since taking office about 18 months ago to boost contacts and reduce the
potential for miscalculations.
In September, two Chinese navy ships stopped in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, then on
to San Diego for the first part of the search-and-rescue exercise that will end
this week in southern China.
The November 19 mission off the island province of Hainan is still being
planned, Roughead said. It will involve 400 Navy personnel from the USS