BEIJING (Reuters) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping told Henry Kissinger that "old friends" like him will never be forgotten, striking an easy tone in their meeting in China's capital on Thursday, amid efforts by Beijing and Washington to mend frayed ties.
"Once again, China and the U.S. are at a crossroads of where to go from here, and once again, both sides need to make a choice," Xi told the 100-year-old former U.S. diplomat.
Kissinger played a key diplomatic role in normalizing ties between Washington and Beijing in the 1970s when he served as secretary of state and national security advisor in the administrations of presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
"The Chinese people never forget their old friends, and Sino-U.S. relations will always be linked with the name of Henry Kissinger," Xi told Kissinger at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, where foreign dignitaries are often received.
Kissinger, who is widely respected in China and has paid regular visits since leaving office, said he was grateful Beijing had arranged the meeting in the building where he first met with a Chinese leader.
"The relationship between our two countries is a matter of world peace and the progress of human society," China's state broadcaster CCTV cited Kissinger as saying.
His visit to China comes at a time when the two super powers are embarking on a course to stop their relations, already at historic lows, from sinking further.
"China is willing to explore with the U.S. side the correct way for the two countries to get along and promote the steady progress of China-U.S. relations," Xi said.
Tensions between the world's two largest economies have heightened over a range of issues, including the war in Ukraine, Taiwan and trade curbs.
As part of Washington's efforts to reestablish communication channels, U.S. presidential envoy John Kerry concluded his visit to China on Wednesday, which followed lengthy talks with Beijing on fighting climate change.
Current Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Beijing last month.
Kissinger also met with China's top diplomat Wang Yi and with defense minister Li Shangfu on his trip, which Washington said was a private visit.