During a speech to cadets and young officers at the Engineering Academy of PLA Armored Forces, Panetta explained the U.S. shift to the Pacific was in part an effort to build a stronger relationship with China, according to the Associated Press.
China has raised concerns about that U.S. strategic shift to the Pacific, which was announced in January, is directed squarely at Beijing and its growing military power. U.S. officials have insisted that is not the case, but the Chinese have reacted negatively to U.S. strategic moves there this year.
After meeting with Xi, Panetta told reporters he left with a sense of hopefulness that the Chinese better understand U.S. intentions in the Pacific.
"We will have our differences," Panetta said. "But the key is if we can have open communications and the ability to express views in a candid way ... that more than almost anything else can lead to improved relations between the U.S. and China."
In a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People, Xi also expressed a sense of optimism, at least publicly, according to Reuters.
“I believe that your visit will be very helpful in further advancing the state-to-state and mil-to-mil (military-to-military) relations between our two countries," Xi said.