Gen. Chen Bingde, chief of General Staff of the People’s Liberation Army, arrived in Israel on Sunday as a guest of IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.- Gen. Benny Gantz, marking the first visit of a Chinese military chief to the country.

Gantz received Bingde with an honor guard at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv. The two men were were scheduled to meet for a festive dinner on Sunday night with the participation of additional members of the IDF General Staff.

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Defense officials said that Bingde’s visit did not signify a change in Israeli policy regarding defense relations and exports to the Chinese military. Israel significantly downgraded its defense ties with China in recent years due to American pressure.

Israeli companies are forbidden to sell weapons to the Chinese military.

The visit comes after Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s visit to China in June, the first visit of a defense minister to the country in a decade.

Bingde’s visit to Israel was part of a tour that included stops in Ukraine and Russia.

He will visit Yad Vashem and the IDF urban warfare training center in the Negev, and will hold a series of meetings with top officials to discuss the Iranian nuclear threat, the situation in Syria and the significance of the ongoing upheaval in the Middle East.

Earlier this year, Adm. Wu Shengli of the People’s Liberation Army Navy visited Israel and met with Barak and commander of the Israel Navy V.- Adm. Eliezer Marom. In 2010, a number of IDF generals, including the heads of the Home Front Command and Military Intelligence, visited Beijing.

Israel places a lot of importance on the visit, particularly because a recent United Nations report accused China of supplying Iran with missile technology and components from North Korea.

China is believed to be interested in bolstering its presence in the Middle East – possibly in the form of arms sales to Arab countries – and Israel hopes that by strengthening its ties with the People’s Liberation Army it will be able to influence the process.

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