Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, expected to become the country's next president, embarked on a tour to cultivate better ties with Asia on Monday by offering to help Bangladesh with defence and other sectors, officials said.
Xi arrived in Dhaka, the first stop on a trip also taking him to Laos, New Zealand and Australia, criss-crossing a region where China's economic growth offers both hope and cause for anxiety.
Analysts say Xi, likely to succeed President Hu Jintao in 2013, will stress on his tour that Beijing wants to be a cohesive force promoting trade and cooperation. U.S. President Barack Obama has twice postponed visits to Asia, a region he says is a priority.
"All issues of bilateral cooperation including, defence, economic and technical were discussed," Bangladesh's foreign minister, Dipu Moni, said in televised comments after Xi met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
"Xi was jovial, cooperative and friendly. We are convinced that China will be really helping us in all possible areas."
China is Bangladesh's biggest trade partner with bilateral trade standing at $4.5 billion, though heavily in favour of Beijing.
Hasina's press secretary, Abul Kalam Azad, told Reuters the Chinese leader had spoken of enhanced cooperation in defence.
China, the largest defence hardware supplier to Bangladesh, agreed to provide the South Asian state with two frigates during Hasina's visit to Beijing in March, defence officials said.
Bangladesh has five frigates, the last built by South Korea, added in 2001, during Hasina's previous tenure as prime minister.
Officials say boosting naval capabilities is important for Bangladesh to maintain surveillance in its territory in the Bay of Bengal, rich in natural resources and hydrocarbons.
Bangladesh briefly deployed naval ships in a disputed part of the bay after Myanmar began exploring for oil and gas in October 2008. It withdrew the vessels after Myanmar stopped exploration as China, friendly with both countries, expressed concern.
Azad said Xi also showed interest in helping build a deep-water port. Bangladesh has drawn up a plan for an $8.7 billion port by mid-century near the port of Chittagong.
The facility is intended to serve Nepal, Bhutan, southern China, Myanmar and northeastern India, officials said.
Officials said Monday's visit also produced an agreement for a 40 million taka ($6 million) grant to Bangladesh.
ReutersLast Mod: 14 Haziran 2010, 21:39