British FM in China, Iran likely on agenda
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband was in China today, making a quick stop in Shanghai before heading to Beijing for talks likely to focus on Iran's nuclear programme.world Updated: Mar 15, 2010 12:25 IST
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband was in China on Monday, making a quick stop in Shanghai before heading to Beijing for talks likely to focus on Iran's nuclear programme.
Miliband, who arrived late Sunday, delivered a speech on the global economy at the Shanghai Institute of International Studies and visited the site of World Expo 2010, which will open on May 1, a British embassy official said.
He was due to head later Monday to Beijing, where he will tour a training facility for China's UN peacekeepers outside the capital, before meetings with the country's top leadership.
Miliband was scheduled to meet his counterpart, Yang Jiechi, and Premier Wen Jiabao, before leaving the country on Wednesday.
Ties between Beijing and London have been strained in recent months after a British minister accused China of "hijacking" the global climate change talks in Copenhagen in December.
That same month, Britain summoned China's ambassador in protest over the execution of a Briton, said to have serious mental health problems, for drug smuggling.
China said there was insufficient evidence to back up the claim of mental disability.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he was "appalled and disappointed" by the execution of Akmal Shaikh, a 53-year-old father of three who, according to supporters, had bipolar disorder.
London has also criticised the conviction of leading Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, who was sentenced to 11 years in prison in December on subversion charges.
The two countries are now involved in international talks to resolve a standoff over Iran's controversial nuclear programme.
Last week, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Miliband and his hosts would "exchange ideas on China-UK relations and other major international and regional issues of common interest" -- hinting at talks on Iran.
China, one of five veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council and a close ally of Iran, has so far refused to agree to tougher sanctions against the Islamic republic despite increasing pressure from the West.
Among the other four permanent members, Britain, France and the United States are all pressing for new sanctions.
The fifth, Russia, signalled a shift in its stance early this month, saying it was ready to consider punitive measures against Tehran.
The West suspects Iran is enriching uranium to make nuclear weapons -- a charge denied by Tehran, which says its atomic programme is solely for civilian energy purposes.