TASHKENT, Uzbekistan, June 29 (UPI) -- Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang, seeking wider ties with resource-rich Uzbekistan, says bilateral trade with the Central Asian nation is growing rapidly.
The visitor, in his meeting with Uzbek President Islam Karimov in Tashkent, said China is willing to expand cooperation on a wide range of issues. He said "developing a friendly partnership with Uzbekistan is one of the priorities of China's foreign policy," China's state-run Xinhua news agency reported Monday.
Li's visit follows Chinese President Hu Jintao's meeting this month with Karimov at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in the Russian. In remarks before the meeting with Karimov, Li said bilateral cooperation in investment and projects outsourcing have made rapid progress, noting their "pragmatic cooperation" with joint projects in energy, mining, transportation, agriculture, telecom, machinery, petrochemical and other sectors.
Landlocked Uzbekistan, with a population of about 28 million, separated from the former Soviet Union in 1991 but remains close to Russia. It is rich in gold, natural gas and oil and is the world's second-largest cotton exporter and fifth largest producer.
Li said China will continue to support Uzbekistan's efforts to defend its independence and sovereignty, develop its economy and safeguard its national security and stability.
Karimov said Li's visit an example of the close relations between the leaders of the two countries.
"Uzbekistan and China have made major progress on bilateral economic and trade cooperation, but there is much potential for further developing and deepening that cooperation," he said.