Feb 22, 2019 12:42 UTC
  • This undated photo shows Geng Shuang, spokesperson for China\'s Foreign Ministry.
    This undated photo shows Geng Shuang, spokesperson for China\'s Foreign Ministry.

China has reversed its decision to cancel trade talks with the UK after British Finance Minister Philip Hammond criticized London’s military plans for the deployment of a British warship in the Pacific.

“China sets great store on Sino-Britain ties, and hopes Britain can earnestly respect China’s core interests and concerns, and make efforts for promoting the healthy and stable development of relations,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a daily news briefing in Beijing on Friday.

Chin also said it would welcome a visit by the British finance minister to enhance bilateral relations.

“As for the issue of Chancellor Hammond visiting China, we have said that we welcome him to visit,” Geng added, without elaborating.

Beijing threatened to call off planned trade negotiations with the UK after British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson vowed to send an aircraft carrier to the South China Sea.

Williamson said in a speech that the deployment of aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth would be as a show of strength by the UK, accusing China of increasingly disputing the waters in the Pacific region.

A British government source said Williamson’s speech had been cleared in advance by both Hammond’s department and Prime Minister Theresa May’s office.

Hammond’s trip to Beijing was canceled on February 16, a day after a Chinese official in London lambasted Williamson’s “Cold War mentality.”

In a thinly-veiled rebuke to the British defense secretary, Hammond hailed his country’s ties with China as "important," and insisted that no decision had actually been taken on the carrier’s deployment.

Asked if London-Beijing relationship had been damaged by Williamson’s comments, Hammond said, “It’s a complex relationship and it hasn’t been made simpler by Chinese concerns about Royal Navy deployments in the South China Sea.”

May’s official spokesman also said, “Our relationship with China is a very important one. We have strong and constructive ties on a range of issues and we will continue to do so.”

Beijing has been angered in the past by the fact that Britain is seeking closer military cooperation with the United States in the South China Sea, a region which China claims in its entirety and dismisses similar territorial claims by six other Southeast Asian countries.

In August, a British warship sailed close to the Paracel Islands claimed by China in the South China Sea, prompting fury in Beijing.

This comes as London has been desperate to broaden its cooperation with the world’s second largest economy in a bid to offset the shocks of living the EU at the end of March.

However, the UK government has also been accused of trying to please the United States by countering China’s rising influence in the South China Sea region.

MG

Tags

Comments