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 Cuban president Raul Castro (L) meets with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (L) in Havana. Sept 2016

China’s defense minister said he placed great value on relations between the two countries and pledged to support the growth of Cuba’s military.

During an official state visit to Beijing this week, senior military officials from Cuba and China agreed to deepen military cooperation.

China’s defense minister, Chang Wanquan, met with Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed forces head Leopoldo Cintra Frias on Wednesday, saying his country placed great value on bilateral relations and will continue to support the growth of Cuba’s military, according to Xinhua.

For his part, Cintra reiterated that Cuba “cherishes” its traditional friendship with China and hopes to bring military cooperation to a new level.

This week’s visit comes after last September’s historic visit of Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang to Cuba.

During that visit — the first ever by a Chinese prime minister — the two countries signed more than 30 agreements on economic cooperation, strengthening the relationship between the two socialist countries.

China is now Cuba’s second-largest trading partner after Venezuela. In 1960, Cuba was the first country in the Western hemisphere to recognize China’s Communist government.

The summit between the two military leaders came one week after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wrapped up his own state visit to China, and one week before China’s president will visit U.S. President Donald Trump in Florida.

Since the Trump administration came to power it has increased its aggressive rhetoric towards both Cuba and China, threatening sanctions and potential military action against China for its support of North Korea and territorial claims in the South China Sea, and signaling that it will continue to support regime change efforts by Miami-based anti-Cuban militants.

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