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Updated: March 15, 2010 16:31 IST

David Miliband visits China amid rancour

AP
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British Foreign Secretary Mr. David Miliband. File photo: AP.
British Foreign Secretary Mr. David Miliband. File photo: AP.

Britain’s foreign secretary is visiting China to lobby for further nuclear sanctions on Iran and will seek to smooth rancour with Beijing over climate change talks and the execution of a British drug smuggler thought to be mentally ill.

David Miliband’s visit is another step in the push by Britain, the U.S. and others to persuade China to drop its opposition to a fourth round of sanctions to pressure Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment programme.

With Russia appearing to move closer to supporting new sanctions, China - which depends on Iran for much of its energy needs - would be the only one of five veto—wielding permanent U.N. Security Council members opposed to the measures.

During a stop Monday in China’s financial hub of Shanghai, Mr. Miliband inaugurated the $38 million British pavilion at the Shanghai Expo and made a speech to students that called for progress on a global warming agreement.

He also referred to investor complaints of new barriers to trade in emerging economies.

“This not only increases protectionist pressures in Europe and the U.S. It also deprives China and other emerging economies of cutting—edge technologies, which, in turn, raises their own competitiveness,” Mr. Miliband said.

His speech made no mention of Iran or the continuing friction between London and Beijing that has played out in duelling accusations, diplomatic protests and statements in the media.

Mr. Miliband was to visit a training base for Chinese U.N. peacekeepers outside Beijing before meeting with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi, and Premier Wen Jiabao on Tuesday and delivering a talk at Beijing’s Foreign Affairs University before leaving on Wednesday.

Britain—China ties bottomed out last December after China ignored personal appeals from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, not to execute 53—year—old Akmal Shaikh for drug smuggling. Shaikh’s family said he was mentally unstable and was lured to China from a life on the street in Poland by men playing on his dreams to record a pop song for world peace.

Mr. Brown said he was “appalled” by the execution - China’s first of a European citizen in nearly 60 years - prompting a warning from Beijing that such comments threatened to damage ties.

Even before that exchange, the two had clashed over December’s U.N.—sponsored Copenhagen climate talks that ended without a binding agreement on emissions reductions.

In the aftermath, Britain’s climate change minister, Edward Miliband – Mr. David Miliband’s brother - published an editorial singling out China as the country behind the talks’ near collapse.

China has been emboldened by its rising global clout and economic influence, analysts, and the tough line it has taken signals the communist government’s growing willingness to confront those who challenge it.

China’s relations with the United States have also been fraught with tension over U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, President Barack Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama, trade issues and China’s handling of the Iran nuclear issue.

While Beijing has lately cooled its angry rhetoric over such issues, a fence—mending visit to Beijing this month by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, and Senior White House Asia adviser Jeffrey Bader, apparently produced no breakthroughs.

Beijing insists the U.S. is entirely responsible for the turbulence in ties and must take actions it does not specify to repair the rift.

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