Chinese presidential successor Xi Jinping has met with visiting US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, reclaiming his spot in the public stage after mysteriously “disappearing”.

Mr. Panetta, on a week-long trip to the region, met with Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie on Tuesday and urged closer military ties between the two superpowers in the Asia Pacific region. Mr. Xi’s puzzling two-week disappearance fueled speculations on his health and an apparent “power struggle” ahead of the once-in-a-decade leadership transition. Mr. Xi reportedly cancelled high-level meetings with visiting dignitaries including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The Chinese government refused to disclose any more information on the matter. Mr. Xi appeared in public for the first time at China Agricultural University in Beijing on Monday.

The visit from the Pentagon official came amid mounting tensions between Japan and China. Mr. Panetta, speaking ahead of his departure to Tokyo, warned that further tensions could escalate into war. Upon his arrival in Beijing, he touched on other regional issues and reiterated “common concerns” between the US and China.