QINGDAO, China (AFP) - US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta had a rare first-hand look inside a Chinese naval base Thursday, as Washington pushes security dialogue with a country that could rival its power in the Pacific. On the third day of his visit to China, Panetta flew to the eastern port of Qingdao, home to the headquarters of the Chinese navy’s northern fleet, becoming the first Pentagon chief to set foot inside the facility. The Chinese navy’s latest warships and submarines are the subject of intense scrutiny by US military strategists, defence analysts and American lawmakers, and there are concerns about Beijing’s growing military might. But Chinese officers gave Panetta a close-up look at several vessels, a US defence official said, including the frigate Yantai, which recently supported joint counter-piracy operations with the US in the Gulf of Aden. He also toured the conventionally powered Great Wall 197 submarine, which has torpedo, minelaying and reconnaissance capabilities. Panetta’s visit came a day after he spoke at a military engineering academy in Beijing, saying 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. “Our rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region is not an attempt to contain China,” he told an audience of cadets and young officers. “It is an attempt to engage China and expand its role in the Pacific.