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Panetta Welcomes Chinese Vice President to Pentagon

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 15, 2012 – Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta yesterday welcomed Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping to the Pentagon with full military honors for what was the first ceremony of its kind for a visiting vice president, Defense Department officials said.

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Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta stands next to Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping during a full honors ceremony welcoming Xi to the Pentagon, Feb. 14, 2012. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

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Neither Panetta nor Xi spoke publicly at the ceremony, where they took the reviewing stand before formations of the four military services on the Pentagon’s River Terrace parade field. The ceremony began with a 19-gun salute and the playing of the Chinese, then the American, national anthems on what was an unseasonably warm winter day.

Panetta and Xi met privately after the ceremony and had a “wide-ranging discussion” in which they “affirmed that a healthy, stable and reliable military-to-military relationship is an essential part of President [Barack] Obama's and President Hu [Jintao]'s shared vision for building a cooperative partnership,” Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said in a statement following the meeting.

“They agreed on the need for enhanced and substantive dialogue and communication to foster greater understanding and expand mutual trust,” Little said.

Xi called visits between then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen and his Chinese counterpart last year successful, and expressed support for a similar exchange between Panetta and his Chinese counterpart, he said.

Xi urged both sides to maintain and strengthen practical exchanges and cooperation between the two militaries, and Panetta highlighted humanitarian assistance and counterpiracy efforts as productive areas for deepening cooperation between the United States and China, Little said. Both agreed that the two militaries should discuss the specifics of a program of future exchanges, he added.

Xi’s Pentagon visit was part of a packed day here that started with a meeting with Obama in the White House and included a luncheon with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and dinner at the Naval Observatory with Vice President Joe Biden, his wife, Jill, and Panetta.

Biden invited Xi here as the latest in increasing senior-level diplomatic exchanges between U.S. and Chinese officials. Yesterday’s meetings focused primarily on economic and trade issues and included U.S. congressional and corporate leaders. Xi is traveling to Iowa today to visit U.S.-based businesses.

Following their visit yesterday, Obama said mutual interest and respect between the United States and China is “in the interest of the world.”

The bilateral meetings have allowed the countries to improve both their economic and strategic relationship, “and also manage areas of tension in a way that is constructive,” Obama said. The discussions have allowed them to work together on “hotspot” issues involving the Korean peninsula and Iran, he said.

“Throughout this process, I have always emphasized that we welcome China’s peaceful rise, that we believe that a strong and prosperous China is one that can help to bring stability and prosperity to the region and to the world,” Obama said. “And we expect to be able to continue on the cooperative track that we’ve tried to establish over the last three years.”

Xi said yesterday he hopes the discussions would continue to move the two countries “along in the right direction.”

“I hope to engage with a broad cross-section of American society during my current visit, so as to deepen mutual understanding, expand consensus, strengthen cooperation, and deepen the friendship between the Chinese and American people,” he said.

Biden yesterday noted during the State Department meeting that U.S. officials “strongly disagreed” with China’s veto in recent days of a U.N. resolution against Syrian President Bashad al-Assad.

Topics that were discussed during the bilateral talks included Syria, North Korea, Iran, Sudan, South Asia, maritime security, cybersecurity, nuclear security, climate change and cooperation between two militaries, he said.


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Click photo for screen-resolution imageChinese Vice President Xi Jinping, right, is accompanied by Army Col. David P. Anders, commander of the U.S. 3rd Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), during a walking inspection of the troops at a full honors ceremony welcoming Xi to the Pentagon, Feb. 14, 2012. DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageDefense Secretary Leon E. Panetta hosts a full honors arrival ceremony to welcome Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping to the Pentagon, Feb. 14, 2012. DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley   
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