- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta welcomed Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping on Tuesday with a 19-gun salute and an honor guard of 350 troops in an ceremony never before bestowed on a foreign vice president at the Pentagon.

The two officials spoke of enhancing trust between the U.S. and China’s militaries. Earlier this year, U.S. officials announced its military would concentrate more on the Asia-Pacific region.

“The United States and China are Pacific powers, and we welcome the rise of a prosperous and successful China that plays an active and responsible role in regional and global security affairs,” Mr. Panetta said in public remarks before their approximately half-hour meeting.

“We want to work with China to build an open, transparent and inclusive regional security order.”

Mr. Xi, who is expected to become the next president of China, responded, “I come to the United States to deepen mutual trust and expand our cooperation.”

“It’s my great pleasure to come to the Pentagon at your invitation and to have this meeting with you and your colleagues, particularly General Dempsey,” Mr. Xi said, referring to Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The last time a Chinese vice president visited the Pentagon was nearly 10 years ago. Hu Jintao, now the president of China, did not receive a military honors arrival ceremony.

The military honors ceremony took place just outside of the Pentagon, beginning with a 19 gun salute. An honor guard of 325 troops from each branch of the U.S. military greeted Mr. Xi, as bands played the Chinese and American national anthems.

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