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Panama's president makes first official visit to China

FILE - In this April 20, 2016 file photo, Panama's President Juan Carlos Varela arrives at Japanese Prime Minister official residence in Tokyo, Japan. Varela is making his first official visit to China. He left for Asia on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, and planned to inaugurate a new Panamanian embassy in Beijing and a consulate in Shanghai. (Franck Robichon/Pool Photo via AP, File)

FILE - In this April 20, 2016 file photo, Panama's President Juan Carlos Varela arrives at Japanese Prime Minister official residence in Tokyo, Japan. Varela is making his first official visit to China. He left for Asia on Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, and planned to inaugurate a new Panamanian embassy in Beijing and a consulate in Shanghai. (Franck Robichon/Pool Photo via AP, File)

PANAMA CITY — Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela is making his first official visit to China after establishing diplomatic ties with the country five months ago.

Varela left for Asia on Tuesday and planned to inaugurate a new Panamanian embassy in Beijing and a consulate in Shanghai.

The Central American country switched diplomatic relations from Taiwan to China in June.

As part of the change, Panama and China released a joint statement saying that Taiwan was an inalienable part of Chinese territory.

China is the second-most frequent user of the Panama Canal after the United States, and a Chinese consortium operates the ports at both ends of the passageway.

Varela hopes the new relationship will be an economic boon to Panama.

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