Venezuelan President in China amid row with US over air space

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro attends a meeting with South Africa's Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane in Caracas on Thursday, Sept 19, 2013. Mr Maduro said he had arrived in Beijing on Saturday after accusing the United States of re
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro attends a meeting with South Africa's Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane in Caracas on Thursday, Sept 19, 2013. Mr Maduro said he had arrived in Beijing on Saturday after accusing the United States of refusing his plane access to its airspace for the journey. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (AFP) - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said he had arrived in Beijing on Saturday after accusing the United States of refusing his plane access to its airspace for the journey.

"I have just arrived in China to strengthen friendship and cooperation between our two countries," said Mr Maduro, successor to deceased former leader Hugo Chavez, on a newly created Weibo microblog, China's equivalent of Twitter.

The visit comes amid high tensions between Washington and Caracas, which on Thursday described as "insulting" the US' alleged decision to refuse Mr Maduro permission to use its air space.

Washington denied the charges on Friday, saying the US authorities worked with the Venezuelan Embassy to resolve the issue after being given insufficient notice.

The US added it had not denied visas for the Venezuela delegation for this year's United Nations General Assembly, another issue of contention for Caracas.

Mr Maduro, who is in China until Tuesday, is set to meet Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

Economic cooperation between the two countries has boomed in recent years following the signing of several multibillion-dollar agreements on investments in oil, energy, construction and high-tech industries.

China has provided more than US$36 billion (S$45 billion) in loans to Venezuela, the largest holder of oil reserves in the world, which it repays largely with crude.