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By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top U.S. military officer in the Pacific voiced new concern on Tuesday about China's rapidly growing military and said the United States has only a limited understanding of Chinese military intentions.

Navy Adm. Timothy Keating, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that China's build-up would require Taiwan to improve its own defenses to deter potential aggression from the Chinese mainland.

"Sustaining stability across the Taiwan Strait is a top priority. Vital to preserving this current stability is a credible Taiwan self-defense capability," Keating said in written testimony released at a committee hearing.

"I remain concerned about Chinese double-digit growth in annual defense spending and investment in systems which threaten Taiwan and our own capabilities," he said.

Keating was the latest U.S. defense official to express misgivings about the growth of the Chinese military. Beijing is planning a 17.6 percent increase in defense expenditures this year to 418 billion yuan ($59 billion), on top of a 17.8 percent increase last year. U.S. military spending is about $500 billion, not including war costs.

"The growing PLA (People's Liberation Army) military capability remains a concern and our understanding of PLA intentions is limited," Keating said in his Senate testimony.

He said the United States wanted a more mature, constructive military-to-military relationship with China.

"We view the effort as the best means to reduce the chance of miscalculation, increase our mutual understanding and encourage cooperation on areas of common concern," he said.

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