PEKING — Erich Honecker, the first East German leader ever to visit China, received a red-carpet welcome Tuesday at the beginning of a six-day tour that formally thaws Communist Party ties frozen since the 1960s.
Honecker, who flew to Peking after a visit to North Korea, was officially welcomed by President Li Xiannian in a ceremony in Tian An Men Square, which was festooned with Chinese and East German flags.
Li and Honecker went into the adjacent Great Hall of the People for a short meeting. The East German leader, who is also general secretary of his nation's Communist Party, was then taken to the nearby Diaoyutai government compound for formal talks with Chinese Communist Party chief Hu Yaobang.
The two party leaders, who last met 33 years ago at a youth meeting in Bucharest, Romania, greeted each other with a long hug and kisses.
Technically, Honecker is the first leader of one of Moscow's close East European allies to pay an official visit to Peking since the split. But Polish leader Wojciech Jaruzelski paid an "unofficial," three-day "working" visit to Peking last month on his way home from North Korea.