China opens naval base to US defence chief
BEIJING (AFP) - United States (US) Defence Secretary Leon Panetta will get a rare first-hand look at a Chinese naval base on Thursday, as Washington pushes security dialogue with a country that could rival US power in the Asia-Pacific.
Mr Panetta was due to fly to the eastern port of Qingdao, home to the headquarters of the Chinese navy's northern fleet, and will become the first Pentagon chief to set foot in the facility.
Chinese officers have promised to give Mr Panetta a tour of one of their newer frigates and diesel submarines, a day after he spoke to army cadets at an engineering academy in Beijing.
In his speech to cadets and young officers, Mr Panetta sought to reassure them that the US strategic tilt to the Pacific was not to curtail China's power but an effort to promote stability in an area vital to the global economy.