China's Vice-President Xi Jinping
China's Vice-President Xi Jinping has met US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta in Beijing, in his first key meeting after a two-week absence.
Xi's unexplained absence from public fuelled widespread rumours over his health and a political struggle, reports the BBC.
He is expected to become China's next Communist Party chief and president.
The country is due to hold a key party congress in coming weeks that will see major changes in the top echelons of leadership.
However, no date has been set for the meeting, which is being watched closely.
Panetta is in Beijing for talks with his counterpart and top Chinese leaders, as part of an Asian tour that also includes Japan and New Zealand.
It is his first visit to China as Pentagon chief.
Xi, accompanied by military officials, said seeing Panetta reminded him of his visit to the United States in February, and that his visit will help in ''further advancing the state-to-state and military-to-military relations between our two countries".
"I sincerely wish your visit will be a good success," said Xi.
Panetta, who met his Chinese counterpart Liang Guanglie on Tuesday, has called for closer military contact between the US and China.
"The key is to have senior-level interactions that we are engaging in to reduce the potential of miscalculation, and boost real understanding and expand trust between our countries," he said.
Xi cancelled several meetings with visiting foreign dignitaries, including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, earlier this month.
The uncharacteristic move in a country highly conscious of protocol sparked off a series of rumours over the state of Xi's health, with suggestions ranging from a back injury to more serious conditions.
His ''disappearance'' and the lack of an official statement, coupled with there being no clear date for the party congress, also prompted speculation of a power struggle within the Communist party.
Some analysts said that some of the seats on the nine-strong politburo Standing Committee could still have been unallocated.