WASHINGTON, Feb. 14 (UPI) -- Vice President Xi Jinping, tipped to become China's next leader, began his U.S. visit meeting with former top U.S. officials.
Much is expected from the visit of Xi, who is likely to succeed Hu Jintao as general secretary of China's Communist Party and as the country's president. He was scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama Tuesday.
Xi's visit comes at a time of contention between Washington and Beijing over such issues as U.S. weapons sales to Taiwan, Iran's nuclear program, North Korea and Syria. The United States is shifting its foreign policy to emphasize the Asia-Pacific region because of China's growing military might and its aggressive posture against neighboring countries on issues including the South China Sea.
Xi arrived Monday at the invitation of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. He met with former U.S. secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, former U.S. national security advisers Zbigniew Brzezinski, Brent Scowcroft and Sandy Berger, and former U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, China's official Xinhua news agency reported.
In a statement on his arrival, Xi said the purpose of his visit is to advance building the China-U.S. cooperative partnership based on mutual respect and mutual benefit, Xinhua reported.
"I have brought with me the sincere greetings of President Hu Jintao and the Chinese people to the American people," he said.
Xi recalled former President Richard Nixon's China visit 40 years ago, which paved the way for the establishment of diplomatic ties between Washington and Beijing.
"Since then, our relations have moved forward in spite of ups and downs. This has brought enormous benefits to our two countries and two peoples, and has had a positive, far-reaching impact on peace, stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region and the world at large," Xi said.
"Whether we can seize opportunities, tackle challenges and build a cooperative partnership at the new historical starting point matters to the future of our two countries and the world as a whole," he said.
Xinhua said Xi's U.S. tour has attracted worldwide attention. He will also travel to Iowa and California before continuing on a trip during which he will also visit Ireland and Turkey.