Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff and the senior officer in the US Army, arrived in Beijing on Thursday for a four-day visit, a further sign that ties between the two armed forces are improving.
In China at the invitation of Chief of the General Staff of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Liang Guanglie, Pace's visit is the first by a high-ranking US military officer in 2007.
During Pace's stay in Beijing, he will meet with Guo Boxiong and Cao Gangchuan, both vice chairpersons of China's Central Military Commission (CMC), China's top military authority.
Pace will further meet with his host, Liang, on a wide range of issues before holding a seminar at the PLA Military Science Academy.
The four-day journey will allow Pace to take in some of China's military areas and institutions, and see him meet with the leaders of the Military Areas of Shenyang and Nanjing.
Pace's trip is the latest in a series of high-level visits between Chinese and US armed forces.
Guo paid a week-long visit last July on the invitation of US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, still the highest-ranking Chinese military officer to visit the US since 2001.
William Fallon, US Commander in the Pacific, came last May and August and in return invited a Chinese delegation to attend a US military exercise in Guam last June, the first such offer ever extended by the US. 2006 marked a turning point in China-US military ties with the inaugural joint search-and-rescue exercise being held.
The two countries' respective defense departments also recently re-established a series of consultation mechanisms relating to maritime security, humanitarian disaster relief and military environmental protection.
Yet, according to analysts, some obstacles still prevent full improvement of relations, including the Taiwan issue.
In late February, the US Department of Defense revealed plans to sell 400 missiles worth US$421 million to Taiwan, including Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air missiles, Maverick missiles, as well as spare parts and maintenance equipment.
The US Congress has also passed legislation, setting a cap on military exchanges with China, as represented by the 2000 Fiscal Year Defense Authorization Act.
(Xinhua News Agency March 22, 2007)