Chinese President Xi Jinping is visiting Sri Lanka, where he will help launch a new port city project funded by his government.

Xi was welcomed by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The two are expected to oversee the signing of up to 20 agreements, including one for a new coal power plant.

Xi will also help launch Colombo Port City, being constructed on an artificial island off the capital with a reported $1.3 billion in Chinese loans.

The Chinese leader is visiting countries in the region to seek closer ties and support for his vision of a modern maritime "Silk Road" — a sea route connecting China with Europe. On Monday, Xi secured backing from the nearby archipelago nation of the Maldives.