Chinese president Xi Jinping has signalled that China will be sending new pandas to the United States.
Mr Xi made the offer on a visit to California where he was taking part in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperative (APEC) conference.
Although he did not share much detail about the pandas, it was suggested that the next pair would likely be lent to San Diego, California.
It came after Mr Xi spent four hours with US President Joe Biden at a northern California country estate, holding meetings, lunching and walking together through a garden – something that, because of a strain in the two countries’ relations, was inconceivable not long ago.
After the meeting, Mr Biden announced that direct lines of communication between American and Chinese military forces will be reopened for the first time in more than a year.
During a dinner speech with business leaders, Mr Xi dubbed pandas “envoys of friendship between the Chinese and American peoples”.
He said: “We are ready to continue our cooperation with the United States on panda conservation, and do our best to meet the wishes of the Californians so as to deepen the friendly ties between our two peoples.”
The indication comes after some of the last giant pandas in the US were sent back to China.
China has loaned out pandas as gestures of goodwill many times in the past in what has come to be known as “panda diplomacy”.
Modern China gave its first pair of giant pandas to Britain in 1974 and pandas were first offered to the US by Beijing in 1972, to the National Zoo in Washington, ahead of the normalisation of bilateral relations.
In October, the National Zoo announced that its most recent three pandas – Mei Xiang, Tian Tian and their male cub, Xiao Qi Ji, aged 3 – would return to China by 15 November.
Pandas have also been loaned from Beijing to other US zoos with proceeds going back to panda conservation programmes.
The UK’s current only pair of pandas are set to return to China from Edinburgh Zoo by the end of this year.
Similarly, Australia and China are negotiating the extension of a loan agreement for two pandas at Adelaide Zoo that expires next year.