MALDIVES, September 14, China Daily - Chinese President Xi Jinping on Sunday pledged to pursue close cooperation with the Maldives on climate change ahead of his state visit to the island country.

"China will continue to pursue close cooperation with it (the Maldives) on climate change, human rights and other issues," Xi said in a signed article published in the Maldivian media.

Xi is due to arrive in Male later Sunday on the first ever visit by a Chinese head of state to the Maldives since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1972.

Noting that friendly exchanges between China and the Maldives dated back to China's Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Xi said the two countries have always respected, trusted and supported each other in the past 40 plus years, setting a good example of countries different in size treating each other as equals.

Recent years have seen increasing exchanges in various fields and enhanced practical cooperation between the two countries, with two-way trade and tourism growing rapidly, Xi noted.

As the largest source of foreign tourists to the Maldives for four years in a row, China has endeavored to assist the Maldives in growing its economy and improving people's livelihood, he added.

"This shows that China and the Maldives are not only sincere friends who trust and help each other, but also partners in the common pursuit of development and prosperity," said Xi.

"The river is wide at full tide, a strong wind sends the sail surging forward," Xi cited the ancient Chinese poem to describe the current China-Maldives relations, which are moving upward and facing major opportunities.

The Chinese president urged the two countries to seize the opportunities to boost traditional friendship and intensify cooperation so as to lift China-Maldives relations to a new height.

To this end, Xi said China and the Maldives should further strengthen political mutual trust, expand practical cooperation, boost people-to-people exchanges and enhance coordination on multilateral issues.

China will, as always, respect the choice of the political system and development path made by the Maldivian people in light of their national conditions, he said.

As regards practical cooperation, Xi said China welcomes the Maldives to get actively involved in the proposed 21st century Maritime Silk Road initiative.

With an increasing number of Chinese going to the island country, the Chinese president proposed to open more flight routes for easier travel.

"With these efforts, we will feel close even when we are thousands of miles away from each other," said Xi.