China's leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping holds his first talks with a foreign official since vanishing from the public eye nearly two weeks ago, telling U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that he wanted to advance ties with the United States.
Vice-President Xi's disappearance prompted widespread rumors that he was ill or worse ahead of this year's Communist Party Congress where he is expected to be named party chief.
A Pentagon official called the discussions constructive and candid, covering issues ranging from North Korea to "maritime territorial disputes".
Panetta's visit has come at a fraught time for China, which is in the midst of a row with U.S. ally Japan over who owns a small group of islands in the East China Sea. The dispute has triggered anti-Japanese protests in China in the past few days.
Critics in China believe that a U.S. move to shift its strategic focus to the region has encouraged countries like Japan to be more bold when dealing with Beijing.