China's senior diplomat Dai Bingguo. - Reuters (File Photo)

BEIJING: China's senior diplomat Dai Bingguo arrived in Pakistan on Friday for talks with the country whose relations with key backer, the United States, have gone from bad to worse, state news agency Xinhua said.

Dai will meet Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told a daily briefing.

Dai is a state councillor who steers foreign policy for China's top leaders. He outranks Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, who answers to Dai.

The visit is meant to mark 60 years of diplomatic ties and will “take relations to a new high”, Liu said.

Both sides will use this visit to “discuss the future development of practical cooperation and exchange views on other issues of mutual concern,” Liu said, without elaborating.

“China is satisfied with the present course of bilateral relations and has total confidence in prospects for future cooperation the future,” Liu added.

Liu did not give other details on Dai's trip.

Beijing has voiced support for Islamabad during months of worsening Pakistani American relations, which were shaken by the US incursion in May that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden near a Pakistani military base, and a cross-border attack by US forces that mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last month.

Pakistan has been trying to move closer to Asian powerhouse China as ties with the United States have suffered.

China and Pakistan call each other “all-weather friends” and their close ties have been underpinned by long-standing wariness of their common neighbour, India, and a desire to counter-balance US influence across the region.

China invested more than $200 million to help build the deep-sea Gwadar port on Pakistan's Arabian Sea coast, partly with a view to opening an energy and trade corridor from the Gulf, across Pakistan to western China.

China also helped Pakistan build its main nuclear power generation facility at Chashma in Punjab province.

Two reactors are in operation and two more are planned. Analysts say China agreed to expand the Chashma complex to counter a 2008 nuclear energy deal between India and the United States.

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