Aug 18, 3:37 AM EDT

Chinese admiral visits Syria in show of support


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BEIJING (AP) -- A top Chinese military officer visited Syria this week in a show of support for President Bashar Assad's embattled regime, official media reported Thursday.

Rear Adm. Guan Youfei met on Sunday with Syrian Defense Minister Fahd Jassem al-Freij in Damascus. He also met the following day with a Russian general who is coordinating his country's military assistance to Assad's fight against armed opposition groups, said the official Xinhua News Agency.

Xinhua said Guan expressed China's willingness to boost military cooperation with Syria, while the newspaper Global Times cited the Chinese Defense Ministry as saying that both sides agreed to further cooperate on personnel training and humanitarian aid from the Chinese military.

The Chinese military "is willing to strengthen cooperation with its Syrian counterparts," it quoted the ministry as saying.

Guan is head of the Office for International Military Cooperation under the Central Military Commission that oversees China's 2.3 million-member armed forces.

While China has followed Russia's approach in backing Assad, it hasn't directly contributed forces in keeping with its policy of opposing outside intervention in domestic conflicts. During the early months of the 5-year-old civil war, China joined Russia in blocking motions at the United Nations calling for Assad to work for a resolution of the conflict.

Despite that, Chinese military advisers are on the ground in Syria helping train soldiers in the use of weapons purchased from China, including sniper rifles, rocket launchers and machine guns, reported the Global Times, which is published by the ruling Communist Party's flagship newspaper People's Daily.

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This story corrects dates of officer's meetings in Syria.

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