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Norwegian PM going to China as ties normalize

March 31, 2017 - 4:25 AM

COPENHAGEN - Norway's prime minister said Friday she will travel to China next week to meet President Xi Jinping, as part of repairing ties more than six years after Beijing froze Oslo out over the Nobel Peace Prize award to an imprisoned Chinese dissident.

Erna Solberg says she is "happy that we now normalize our diplomatic and political relations with China."

"Direct contact with the Chinese leadership is important for a solid and predictable relationship characterized by mutual interests, trust and understanding," Solberg said of the April 7-10 visit.

In 2010, Norway's Nobel committee awarded Liu Xiaobo the peace prize, infuriating China. Liu is still imprisoned in northern China. Although Norway's government has no say over the Nobel panel's choices, China suspended a bilateral trade deal and restricted imports of Norwegian salmon.

Liu was convicted of subversion in 2009 and sentenced to 11 years in prison after he wrote and disseminated Charter '08, a document calling for democracy.

Beijing had always demanded that Norway recognize the error of awarding the prize to Liu, but was not specific about what it wanted. China had characterized prize award as "gross interference" in its affairs.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said the government attaches "great importance" to the visit.

"We believe that as long as the two sides can rebuild mutual respect, it should be no problem to restart" the China-Norway human rights dialogue, Lu said Friday at a regular briefing in Beijing.

In December, the countries said normal relations have resumed. The Chinese Foreign Ministry then said that Norway "made important and explicit statements on issues concerning China's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

Solberg noted it would be the first visit to by a Norwegian prime minister in a decade. She will be accompanied by Foreign Minister Borge Brende and a trade delegation.

"China is our largest trading partner in Asia. The normalization will create significant opportunities for Norwegian industry and workplaces. We want to resume negotiations on a free trade agreement with China," she said.

Solberg's visit to Beijing comes after Xi plans to meet U.S. President Donald Trump in Florida April 6-7.


Christopher Bodeen and Louise Watt in Beijing contributed to this report.

News from © The Associated Press, 2017
The Associated Press

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