JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began an official visit to China Monday despite tensions back home following the alleged Israeli airstrikes on Syrian weapons storage facilities.
Israeli commentators said it was important for Netanyahu to maintain his plans to signal that Israel is continuing its business as usual.
Netanyahu did delay his departure slightly Sunday afternoon to attend a security cabinet meeting on the latest developments.
Syrian government officials told the New York Times dozens of elite troops were killed in the airstrikes. Opposition forces confirmed "the strikes hit bases of the Republican Guard and storehouses of long-range missiles in addition to a military research center that American officials have called the country's main chemical weapons factory."
Despite the tenuous situation on the northern border, Netanyahu did not cancel the trip to China, where he hopes to advance economic cooperation between the two countries and present Israel's perspective on Iran.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon will serve as acting prime minister during his absence.
After landing in Shanghai Monday morning, Netanyahu, his wife, Sarah, and sons Yair and Avner headed for a hi-tech park on the first leg of the five-day visit.
At the park, Netanyahu and his family saw some of the latest innovations in alternative energy, urban development, the environment, aviation and space exploration, computer networking, and medicine by international companies doing business in China.
"We see here the logos of many of the world's leading companies," Netanyahu said as he viewed the list of companies in the park. "I hope that we will soon see on this wall the logos of many Israeli companies. This is the goal -- to expand bilateral economic cooperation and significantly increase Israeli exports to China."
"China and Israel have much to gain from enhanced cooperation and that's our goal," Mark Regev, the prime minister's spokesman, told AFP earlier.
In Shanghai, Netanyahu will meet with business leaders and sign several international trade agreements before departing for Beijing later in the week, where he'll meet with President Xi Jinping, Prime Minister Li Keqiang and other senior government officials.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will be in China during part of Netanyahu's visit, where he reportedly plans to present his perspective on the stalemated peace talks.