BELGRADE, June 17, 2016 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan pay homage to the Chinese martyrs killed in the NATO bombing of the former Chinese embassy in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in May 1999, after arriving in Belgrade for a state visit to Serbia, June 17, 2016. The three martyrs were journalists Shao Yunhuan of Xinhua News Agency, and Xu Xinghu and his wife Zhu Ying, of the Guangming Daily newspaper. (Xinhua/Rao Aimin)
BELGRADE, June 17 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping paid homage to the Chinese martyrs killed in the NATO bombing of the former Chinese embassy in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in May 1999, after arriving here Friday for a state visit to Serbia.
As the first public event of the visit, Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan joined Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic, Parliament Speaker Maja Gojkovic, Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic and all other cabinet members in paying silent tribute to the martyrs.
Leaders of the two countries laid wreaths to a new cenotaph erected on the site where the destroyed embassy once stood. Engraved with "Honor Martyrs, Cherish Peace," the cenotaph was set up by the Chinese government on Friday.
The three victims of the deadly bombing were journalists Shao Yunhuan of Xinhua News Agency, and Xu Xinghu and his wife Zhu Ying, of the Guangming Daily newspaper.
Xi and Nikolic stressed that the time-honored traditional friendship and the special friendly sentiments between their two countries are forged with blood and lives, and will be passed on for generations.
China and Serbia will join hands in promoting development and peace, said the two presidents.
After the mourning, the two heads of state attended a ceremony to lay the cornerstone for a Chinese culture center to be built on the embassy site, which will be the first one in the western Balkans.
Mayor of Belgrade Sinisa Mali announced that the street outside the center will be named after ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius, and the square outside the center will be named "China-Serbia Friendship Square."
After the ceremony, Xi and Peng, accompanied by Nikolic and his wife Dragica, visited the Kalemegdan Park and Belgrade Fortress, the most important historical site in the Serbian capital. The park and the fortress are located on a 125-meter-high cliff at the junction of the River Sava and the River Danube.
The two couples took a stroll in the park while engaged in friendly conversations. Xi told his host that looking down at the two rivers from the fortress, he felt like seeing the long history of the Serbian people.
"The Serbian people, with an indomitable spirit, have revived time and again in history like the phoenix nirvana, which the Chinese people admire very much," Xi said.
Noting that both China and Serbia are peace-loving countries with no fear of hegemonic power, Xi pledged to join Serbia in firmly supporting each others'core interests and on issues of major concern, and jointly contribute to world peace and development.
On May 7, 1999, U.S.-led NATO forces carried out a barbaric missile attack on the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, which left the three journalists dead, dozens of others injured, and the embassy building severely damaged.
To commemorate the fallen Chinese reporters and thank China for its support to Serbia, the Belgrade city government set up the first cenotaph in front of the bombarded embassy site on May 7, 2009.
Xi is in Serbia for a state visit to carry forward the two countries' traditional friendship and step up their economic cooperation. It is the first visit by a Chinese head of state to Serbia in 32 years.
He will later travel to Poland and Uzbekistan for state visits as well as the 16th meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Council of Heads of State in Tashkent.