Xi welcomed with 19-gun salute and honour guard

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 February, 2012, 12:00am
 

The Pentagon gave Vice-President Xi Jinping a 19-gun salute and rolled out an honour guard welcome featuring 350 troops.

Such an elaborate greeting is highly unusual for a visiting vice-president, and suggests the Obama administration attaches great importance to Xi's trip.

Military ties between the two countries have been plagued by disputes, ranging from US arms sales to Taiwan to the South China Sea issue, but the two sides pledged to strengthen co-operation.

The Pentagon staged a 15-minute welcoming ceremony for Xi on Tuesday, beginning with the 19-gun salute.

The honour guard, which featured representatives from each branch of the American military, greeted Xi while bands played the national anthems of both countries.

In 2002, Hu Jintao also visited the Pentagon as vice-president, but his arrival was lower-key.

Professor Arthur Waldron, who specialises in the history of China and Eurasia at the University of Pennsylvania, said the arrangement reflected the desire of the US to court Xi on his trip. 'The economy of the US is so weak that we cannot offer economic deals on the table,' he said.

'I think the Pentagon is trying to build a friendship with Xi.'

In his talks with US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, Xi said military ties were an important component of the Sino-US relationship and that they should serve the interests of a co-operative partnership based on a principle of mutual respect.

Xi, who is also a vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, said that he hoped the defence authorities from both countries would expand dialogue and promote mutual strategic trust based on mutual benefits, while considering each other's concerns.

In his opening remarks at the talks with Xi, Panetta said the US and China were Pacific powers and that the US welcomed the rise of China to play an active and responsible role in regional and global security affairs.

'We want to work with China to build an open, transparent and inclusive regional security order,' he said. 'To build a co-operative partnership, it is essential that we enhance mutual trust and understanding between our two military establishments.'

Xi 'urged both sides to maintain and strengthen practical exchanges and co-operation between the two militaries', while Panetta suggested humanitarian assistance and counter-piracy efforts 'as productive areas for deepening co-operation', Little said.

Xi visited Capitol Hill yesterday, where he held a closed-door meeting with the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid, and the Senate Republicans' leader, Mitch McConnell.

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