EU's Ashton to visit China, Mongolia

EU foreign affairs head Catherine Ashton begins a trip to China and Mongolia Wednesday, aiming to take stock of hugely important ties with the new leadership in Beijing.

"China has just completed its leadership change and this is a moment to renew ties, take stock of events in the world and assess how we can best move forward and work together," Ashton said in a statement.

It said the agenda will focus on international issues including Iran, Syria, North Korea and Afghanistan and that Ashton will meet Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Defence Minister Chang Wanquan, among others.

China has just completed a transition to a new generation of Communist Party and government leaders, with President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Premier Li Keqiang both anxious to keep the economy on track and assert the country's place on the international scene.

Ashton's visit to Mongolia is the first at this level, the statement said, adding she will meet Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj and Prime Minister Noroviin Altankhuyag.

She is to sign a Partnership and Cooperation agreement with Mongolia, "paving the way for closer cooperation on economic, environmental and other issues," it added.