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UK Foreign Minister Pays Fence-Mending Trip to China

  • Peter Simpson

Britain Foreign Secretary David Miliband is in China on a three-day visit seeking to smooth the rift between London and Beijing, following British anger over the Copenhagen Climate talks and China's execution of Briton Akmal Shaihk.

Like U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg two weeks ago, Miliband will also seek to push China to agree to sanctions against Iran.

Miliband says he and high-ranking Chinese leaders will be discussing how the U.N. Security Council can - as he says - "address the real threat that the Iranian nuclear program poses to international stability and security."

"I think it is very important that we have a strategic relationship with China," said Miliband. "That means being clear about the necessity of cooperation, the importance of two U.N. Security Council members working close together, and not hiding the areas where we disagree, but not allowing them [the Chinese] to obscure the areas where we can do important joint work together."

Most U.N. Security Council members back sanctions against Tehran for its nuclear program, except China, which wants more diplomacy.

Tensions between Britain and China increased last year after London accused Beijing of hijacking the Copenhagen Climate talks.

The relationship turned from bad to worse following the execution of Briton Akmal Shaikh for drug smuggling, despite pleas for clemency from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown who said Shaikh suffered from mental illness.

But Miliband refuted claims an ever increasingly confident China will be hard to win over as its influence on the world stage grows. He said the two nations are cooperating on many issues such as the global economy and the environment.

He will meet Tuesday with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and state councilor Dai Bingguo.