BEIJING  – Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao met with Pakistani Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on Thursday, vowing to support closer military exchanges between the two countries.

During the meeting Wen vowed to support closer military exchanges between both countries, Xinhua reported. “China will consistently support Pakistan’s efforts to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as back the country’s economic growth and improvement of its people’s livelihoods,” he said.

Wen expressed his belief that the government, armed forces and people of Pakistan will work together to overcome the challenges facing them and achieve more rapid development. In the face of complicated regional and global situations, cementing coordination between China and Pakistan and jointly meeting challenges meets the common interests of both the nations, Wen added.

The premier said Pakistani armed forces have made important contributions toward maintaining bilateral relations and boosting the Pakistan-China strategic cooperative partnership. He pledged to support stronger military exchanges and cooperation between both countries.

Kayani, who is currently on a five-day visit to China, expressed gratitude for China’s efforts to aid Pakistan’s economic growth and social stability, as well as China’s support for Pakistan’s efforts to maintain its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Developing the Pakistan-China strategic cooperative partnership is a cornerstone of the foreign strategies of both countries, Kayani said.

Meanwhile, China and Pakistan also pledged to strengthen their military ties and step up their defence cooperation to a ‘new level’ as Gen Kayani held talks with top Chinese military officials in Beijing. “China and Pakistan pledged to strengthen military ties and bring existing cooperation to a new level”, state-run Xinhua news agency reported after Kayani’s meeting with Chinese Defence Minister Gen Liang Guanglie in the Chinese capital.

 “China values its traditional friendship with Pakistan,” Liang said, adding Beijing hopes to develop pragmatic and effective cooperation with Pakistan in the national defence arena, the report said.

Liang said the bilateral ‘all-weather friendship’ held between China and Pakistan is a strategic choice and is in accordance with the fundamental interests of both nations.

Kayani said Pakistan attaches great importance to its relationship with China, adding that both countries have extensive common interests in both international and regional affairs.

Earlier, Kayani held talks with Gen Ma Xiaotian, Deputy Chief of Staff of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Ma was recently in India to take part in the second round of defence dialogue between the two countries.

Kayani and Ma exchanged views on regional security and military relations between the two countries. Ma told Kayani that China and Pakistan have established all-weather friendship over a long period of time.

The two militaries have conducted all dimensional, wideranging multi-tiered exchanges, Hong said.