China's Xi welcomed with 'respect and love' in Serbia

Serbia's President Aleksandar Vucic reaffirmed his strong support for China's sovereignty over Taiwan on Wednesday as he gave a lavish welcome to President Xi Jinping, who is seeking to deepen political and economic ties with friendlier countries in Europe.

China has poured billions into Serbia and neighboring Balkan countries, particularly into mining and manufacturing, and last year Beijing and Belgrade signed a free trade agreement.

Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan were greeted by Vucic on a red carpet outside the main government offices in Belgrade yesterday.

The Chinese leader was met by a gun salute and the Chinese national anthem before shaking hands with officials including the prime minister and the National Bank of Serbia governor.

The two leaders waved from a balcony to several thousand people waiting outside, with some waving Chinese flags.

Vucic called welcomed Xi a "friend of Serbia."

"Such respect and love as he will find here in our Serbia, he will not find anywhere else," Vucic added.

He told the crowd as Xi applauded: "We have a clear and simple position regarding Chinese territorial integrity. Yes, Taiwan is China."

Beijing claims the self-ruled island as its own, and said it will not rule out using force to bring the island under Chinese control.

As the two leaders sat down for meetings, Xi told Vucic in opening comments that there was a "strong feeling of friendship between our two countries."

Xi arrived in Belgrade on May 7 evening following a state visit to France that saw sometimes robust exchanges with President Emmanuel Macron on trade and China's close ties to Russia despite the Ukraine war.

The other two countries chosen for Xi's first trip to Europe since 2019,...

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