BEIJING — Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro met his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Beijing on Sunday, vowing to strengthen the partnership established by his predecessor, deceased leader Hugo Chavez.
Cooperation between the two countries has blossomed in recent years following the signing of several multi-billion-dollar agreements on investments in oil, energy, construction and high-tech industries.
China has provided more than $36 billion in loans to Venezuela, the world's largest holder of oil reserves, which it repays largely with crude.
"The main goal of this trip is to further consolidate and expand the strategic partnership between Venezuela and China that President Chavez began with Chinese leaders," Maduro said at Beijing's Great Hall of the People after a welcoming ceremony.
Maduro told Xi that China's economic rise has been beneficial to the development of Venezuela.
Xi said: "President Maduro, you are China's good friend. This visit to China will certainly further promote China-Venezuela relations to new heights."
Maduro arrived in China on Saturday after accusing the United States of refusing his plane access to its airspace for the journey — charges that Washington denied.
The visit comes amid high tensions between Caracus and Washington, with U.S. officials saying Saturday that they had not denied visas for the Venezuela delegation to this year's U.N. General Assembly, another issue of contention.
The staunchly anti-U.S. Chavez died of cancer in March and was succeeded as president by Maduro in an election in April.
© AFP 2013