British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Iraq and North Korea must be held responsible for their arms control obligations. In a speech at China's elite Tsinghua University, Mr. Straw called on the Chinese government to help curb the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

"We share a responsibility, all of us, to hold the cheats, such as Iraq, to account. North Korea's continuing refusal to abide by its commitment under the non-proliferation treaty and the agreed framework is another grave cause of concern," Mr. Straw said.

However, Mr. Straw did not comment directly on the possibility of military action against Iraq. The United States has talked for months of taking action against Iraq. U.S. President Bush grouped Iraq, North Korea and Iran in what he called an "axis of evil" states that support terrorism.

Mr. Straw said that if Baghdad allowed United Nations arms inspectors to return to Iraq, the United States would be unlikely to consider military action. Iraq barred the inspectors more than three years ago.

"What we want to see is the re-admission of the weapons inspectors and a facility for them to do their job, without conditions. And if that were to happen, then, I think conversations about military action would be much reduced. But, as we say, the ball is in Iraq's court," Mr. Straw said.

China opposes military action against Iraq, and is an ally of North Korea. Mr. Straw's views, though not new to the West, are rarely heard in China.

Mr. Straw praised China's cooperation in the fight against terrorism after September 11, and also commended China's contribution to the rebuilding of Afghanistan.

The foreign secretary met with Chinese President Jiang Zemin Monday, and also will discuss trade cooperation with officials.

Britain has already invested almost $10 billion in China, and leads European nations in business ties with China.