Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto arrived Saturday for her first official trip abroad and gave assurances that China, long a close ally of her country, will remain a cornerstone of Pakistan's foreign policy.
Bhutto, speaking at a banquet put on by Premier Li Peng, said her visit had special significance in that she was fulfilling a promise made after her election in November to make China her first foreign stop."This demonstrates that the democratic government attaches special importance and priority to Pakistan's time-tested relations with China," she said.
Bhutto received a boisterous welcome from about 200 Pakistani diplomats, residents and schoolchildren at the airport.
She broke with normal procedure, walking away from a waiting limousine to shake hands with the Pakistanis. Many shouted her name and waved banners in English, Arabic and Chinese reading "Long Live Benazir Bhutto" and "Long Live Sino-Pakistan Friendship."
The Pakistani leader will spend three days in China.
The official Xinhua News Agency said Afghanistan will be the main focus of talks, but another topic is expected to be Chinese arms sales to Pakistan. The Muslim Newspaper in Islamabad reported Saturday that Pakistan had reached agreement with China to purchase 75 F-7 jets, a Chinese version of the MiG-21, at a cost of about $225 million.