UK’s Ham­mond in China for talks


Bri­tish For­eign Sec­re­tary Philip Ham­mond said Wed­nes­day that an in­ter­na­tional agree­ment to limit Iran’s nu­clear pro­gram could give im­pe­tus to ef­forts aimed at curb­ing North Korea’s nu­clear weapons pro­gram.

Ham­mond, who is in Bei­jing for talks on se­cu­rity co­op­er­a­tion and cli­mate change, made the com­ments dur­ing a speech to stu­dents at elite Pek­ing Univer­sity. He is to meet with Chi­nese se­nior for­eign pol­icy ad­viser Yang Jiechi on Thurs­day and visit an Air­bus assem­bly plant in Tian­jin.

Call­ing the Iran agree­ment reached in Vi­enna a “ma­jor suc­cess for mul­ti­lat­eral diplo­macy,” Ham­mond said there “may be lessons to be drawn around the world in­clud­ing on tack­ling nu­clear pro­lif­er­a­tion” in North Korea.

While of­fer­ing no specifics, Ham­mond said Bri­tain strongly sup­ports the long-stalled six-na­tion ne­go­ti­at­ing process on North Korea hosted by main­land China. Bri­tain shares an in­ter­est “in en­sur­ing that this par­tic­u­lar mul­ti­lat­eral ini­tia­tive suc­ceeds in bring­ing to an end North Korea’s nu­clear weapons pro­gram. China, of course, has a par­tic­u­larly in­flu­en­tial role to play,” he said.

Bri­tain has strongly en­dorsed the agree­ment among Iran, the United States and other world pow­ers to limit Iran’s nu­clear pro­gram in ex­change for an end to eco­nomic sanc­tions, de­spite heavy op­po­si­tion from Is­rael and some in the U.S. Congress who say the re­stric­tions don’t go far enough. China has friendly re­la­tions with Iran and has pushed for a deal that would end sanc­tions.

Re­fer­ring to Lon­don’s sign­ing on as a char­ter mem­ber of the Chi­nese-backed Asian In­fra­struc­ture In­vest­ment Bank — de­spite U.S. op­po­si­tion — Ham­mond called Bri­tain China’s best part­ner in Europe. He said there was am­ple room to ex­plore other ar­eas of co­op­er­a­tion, in­clud­ing in African de­vel­op­ment, coun­tert­er­ror­ism and at­tack­ing cli­mate change.

Ham­mond’s Thurs­day talks are ex­pected to touch on a po­ten­tial ac­cord at Paris cli­mate change talks in Novem­ber. Top car­bon pol­luter China has been praised by some for set­ting a tar­get of cap­ping its emis­sions be­fore 2030.

How­ever, he also re­ferred to ar­eas where the two na­tions “don’t see eye to eye,” sin­gling out the is­sue of hu­man rights where Bri­tain has been among western na­tions crit­i­cal of the rul­ing Com­mu­nist Party’s re­pres­sive ten­den­cies.

China for its part has harshly crit­i­cized Bri­tain over a 2012 meet­ing be­tween Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron and ex­iled Ti­betan leader the Dalai Lama, as well as Bri­tain’s ques­tion­ing of Chi­nese pol­icy in Hong Kong, a for­mer Bri­tish colony.

Ham­mond also touched on the sen­si­tive is­sue of China’s claim to vir­tu­ally the en­tire South China Sea and its is­land groups, amid height­ened ten­sions be­tween China and its neigh­bors in the strate­gi­cally cru­cial re­gion through which more than US$5 tril­lion in trade passes each year.

“We want to see claims dealt with by rules-based, not power­based so­lu­tions in Asia as else­where, in a way which is con­sis­tent with the long-term peace and sta­bil­ity of the re­gion, with free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion and over­flight and in ac­cor­dance with in­ter­na­tional law, in­clud­ing the law of the sea,” he said.


Bri­tish For­eign Sec­re­tary Philip Ham­mond re­acts to a ques­tion from a Chi­nese stu­dent dur­ing a di­a­logue ses­sion at Pek­ing Univer­sity in Bei­jing, Wed­nes­day, Aug. 12.

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