China: Zimbabwe army chief visit 'normal military exchange'

China says a visit last week to Beijing by Zimbabwean army commander Gen. Constantino Chiwenga, who appears to have taken control of the country, was a "normal military exchange."

Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters Wednesday that the defense ministry had handled arrangements for Chiwenga's visit but characterized it as a pre-planned bilateral exchange.

In a Nov. 10 posting on its microblog, the defense ministry showed Chiwenga smiling and shaking hands with Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan at the Ministry of National Defense headquarters in central Beijing.

China has been a resolute supporter of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe despite rising international criticism, and military ties between the sides date from Chinese support for the struggle against white minority rule in the 1970s.