China's top security official on Saturday made a surprise visit to Afghanistan, the first by a Chinese leader in nearly half a century.
Zhou Yongkang, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, arrived at Kabul airport late in the afternoon.
The four-hour visit had not been announced by Beijing due to security concerns. It followed a two-day trip by Zhou to Singapore, where he met Singaporean leaders.
Zhou, who is in charge of security and justice affairs, had planned to go to Turkmenistan.
It marked the first time in 46 years that a Chinese leader set foot on the soil of Afghanistan, a war-torn country neighboring China.
The last visit was made by late Chinese leader Liu Shaoqi in 1966 when he was the president of China.
During the past half century, Afghanistan has been blighted by a series of military coups and two major wars launched by the former Soviet Union and the US respectively. The country is still the front line in the US-led war against terrorism.
In Kabul, Zhou held a meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
"It is in line with the fundamental interests of the two peoples for China and Afghanistan to strengthen a strategic and cooperative partnership, which is also conducive to regional peace, stability and development," Zhou was quoted as saying in a written statement released by the Chinese delegation upon his arrival.
Zhou said the Chinese government fully respects the right of the Afghan people to choose their own path of development and will actively participate in Afghanistan's reconstruction.
China and Afghanistan established diplomatic relations in 1955.
The two countries decided in June to upgrade their ties to the level of a strategic and cooperative partnership at a meeting between Chinese President Hu Jintao and Karzai in Beijing.
Hu said in the meeting that the advancement of bilateral relations marks a new step for the development of bilateral ties, adding that it not only meets the fundamental interests of the two countries but also benefits world and regional peace and stability.