HAVANA: Visiting President Hu Jintao agreed on Tuesday to defer some of Cuba's loan repayments and made an $80-million donation toward its hospital modernization program, Reuters reported Wednesday.
Hu's visit to Havana, which included a meeting with former leader Fidel Castro, is indicative of China's growing ties with Cuba and provided an opportunity for China to give aid to the island, which has been battered by three hurricanes and the global economic crisis.
The two countries signed accords that put off for 10 years payments for an unspecified trade debt Cuba accumulated in 1995, and for five years a $7.2 million line of credit China granted in 1998, Reuters said.
The agreement to defer the repayments was made in acknowledgement of the estimated $10 million worth of damage caused by hurricanes Gustav, Ike and Paloma earlier this year.
The two sides also signed 12 accords on Monday, calling for, among other things, China to continue buying Cuban sugar and nickel, and Cuba to purchase Chinese agricultural products.
During his talks with Cuban leader Raul Castro, Hu hailed China-Cuba relations, which have been developing smoothly ever since Cuba established diplomatic ties with China in 1960, the first among Latin American nations.
Hu said the relationship between Beijing and Havana has thrived in recent years, and is now in a phase of all-round development.
Friendly exchanges have been maintained between the leaders, congresses, governments, militaries and peoples of the two countries and their mutual political trust continues to deepen, Hu said.
Bilateral trade has increased rapidly and cooperation on investment, energy, agriculture and biotechnology is also moving smoothly, he said.
Noting the countries' growing number of exchange students and an ophthalmology cooperation project in China, Hu said major breakthroughs have been made in education and cultural cooperation between the two sides.
While accompanying Hu on a visit to a school near Havana, where hundreds of future Chinese diplomats and translators are studying Spanish, Raul Castro led 200 students in an impromptu singalong of a Chinese song about Mao Zedong.
He said he learned the song from a Chinese delegate at a youth rights conference in Austria in 1953.
"I don't have the memory Fidel has, but I remember that song," he said.
Hu arrived in Havana on Monday after concluding a state visit to Costa Rica. This is Hu's second visit to Cuba as president. He had earlier visited Cuba in November 2004.
Hu was scheduled to leave Cuba Wednesday morning (local time) for Peru, where he will attend the APEC meeting.