By Mei Jingya, Sina English
Zhou Yongkang, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, arrived at Kabul airport late in Saturday afternoon, kicking start a so-called “surprise” visit to the war-torn country.
During his four-hour stay in Kabul, Zhou met President Hamid Karzai, marking the first ever high-level trip to Afghanistan by a senior Chinese leader in nearly half a century.
Western analysts said such a high-level visit - China's first since former leader Liu Shaoqi came in 1966 - was a sign of Beijing's growing engagement with Kabul in the lead-up to NATO's planned withdrawal in 2014.
During the meeting with Zhou in his Kabul palace, Afghan president Karzai said "China is a good and honest friend of Afghanistan," his office said in a statement.
Security and economic co-operation agreements sgreed upon
Zhou's appearance in Kabul comes after Karzai pledged to work with China to fight "terrorism and extremism" in the region during a visit to Beijing in June, where he attended the Shanghai Co-operation Organization meeting.
Reuters said agreements relating to security and economic co-operation had been reached, including a deal to "train, fund and equip Afghan police".
Under the new agreements, around 300 Afghan police officers will be sent to China for training over the next four years, an Afghan foreign ministry official told the BBC.
Other foreign reports claim China wants to increase investments in Afghanistan's resources sector.
The Telegraph speculated that business and the exploration of natural resources are likely to have been high on the agenda, for a photograph released by official media showed Zhou being greeted by Afghanistan's Minister of Commerce and Industries, Anwar Ul-haq Ahady.
Analysts say China is seeking to expand its influence in the country ahead of the pullout of US-led troops from the country in 2014.
Raffaello Pantucci, a visiting scholar at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences who studies Chinese foreign policy, was quoted by the Telegraph as saying "China is increasingly firing all cylinders on its relationship with Afghanistan."
Top Chinese security official on Saturday made a surprise visit to Afghanistan, the first one by a Chinese leader in nearly half a century.
Zhou Yongkang, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, arrived at Kabul airport late in the afternoon. Full story