Xi Jinping, Panetta discuss regional security
WASHINGTON (Yonhap) -- Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader-in-waiting, and U.S. defense chief Leon Panetta held "constructive and candid" talks Wednesday on North Korea and other global security challenges and on territorial disputes in Asia, according to the Pentagon.
Panetta's meeting with Xi in Beijing highlighted the secretary's trip to Asia, which also took him to Tokyo.
"Secretary Panetta and Vice President Xi also discussed the U.S. rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific, the importance of the peaceful resolution of maritime territorial disputes as well as other matters of importance to regional security, including North Korea," George Little, acting assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, said in a press release.
He said the leaders had "constructive and candid discussions" on a broad range of bilateral issues, with a focus on the U.S-China military-to-military relationship."
Panetta's visit to the region comes at a very sensitive time, with China concerned about the U.S. military focus on Asia.
China is also at odds with Japan and some Southeast Asian neighbors over the sovereignty of a host of islands in the South China Sea.
Little's statement, filled with carefully chosen diplomatic language, did not provide more details on what Xi and Panetta discussed.
In a speech to Chinese military cadets earlier in the day, Panetta tried to reassure Beijing that Washington's pivot towards Asia is not directed at China.
"Our rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region is not an attempt to contain China," he emphasized. "It is an attempt to engage China and expand its role in the Pacific."
He added, "It is about creating a new model in the relationship of two Pacific powers."
The Pentagon chief said its plan to bolster a missile defense system in Japan is intended to counter threats from North Korea's ballistic missiles.
He called on China once again to peacefully resolve territorial disputes with its smaller neighbors.