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Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh is in Beijing for a week-long visit at the invitation of the Chinese government. Welsh, joined by Pacific Air Forces Commander Gen. Hawk Carlisle and CMSAF James Cody, arrived there on Sept. 24, according to an Air Force release. He is the first Chief of Staff to visit China in 15 years. On Wednesday, Welsh met with his Chinese counterpart, People's Liberation Army Air Force Commander Gen. Ma Xiaotian, and other Chinese military officials. On Thursday, Welsh is scheduled to meet with Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission Gen. Xu Qiliang. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in August announced Welsh's trip as one in a series of visits by US senior military leadership to China and reciprocal Chinese military leadership visits to the United States during the remainder of 2013 and in 2014. "A sustained, substantive military-to-military relationship is an important pillar for this strong bilateral relationship," said Hagel on Aug. 19 during a press conference with then-visiting Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Chang Wanquan at the Pentagon.