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China leader Xi welcomes Cuban president to Beijing

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By Agence France-Presse

Chinese President Xi Jinping met with his Cuban counterpart Miguel Diaz-Canel in Beijing on Thursday as he pledged “continued support” for the fellow Communist regime.

Diaz-Canel was on his first visit to Asia since taking over as president in April, becoming the first Cuban leader not to be named Castro since 1959.

The visit comes just days after Washington imposed fresh economic restrictions on Cuba.

Washington’s ties with Havana were fully restored in 2015 after more than half a century of enmity, but have deteriorated since President Donald Trump took office last year.

Xi met Diaz-Canel at the colossal Great Hall of the People, where they reviewed Chinese troops in an elaborate welcome ceremony.

During their talks, Xi pledged that China would continue to support Cuba where possible, calling it a “great and remarkable country” that had overcome obstacles to chart its own path, reported state broadcaster CCTV.

“China will firmly support Cuba in defending national sovereignty and taking a socialist road in line with its national conditions,” he said.

Xi also invited Cuba to join in his pet project, the Belt and Road Initiative, a globe-spanning trade infrastructure programme.

In response, Diaz-Canel said Cuba would take reference from China on developing the domestic economy while renewing its social model.

Communist Cuba was the first country in the western hemisphere to recognise Beijing in 1960.

Beijing is now Havana’s top creditor and among its biggest trading partners.

Diaz-Canel, capping a three-day visit, was earlier in Shanghai for a massive import fair with thousands of foreign companies trying to woo Chinese buyers.

Prior to travelling to China, he received a hearty reception from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang last Sunday, with the two leaders embracing on the tarmac as Diaz-Canel stepped off the plane.

After China, the Cuban president will go on to visit fellow communist countries Vietnam and Laos.