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U.K. Stresses ‘Strong’ Ties With China After Tibet Call

Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokesman said the U.K. has “strong” ties with China after the two countries’ foreign ministers spoke by telephone two days ago to discuss Tibet.

Cameron is intending to visit China this year, his office said May 7, acknowledging that his meeting with the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, in 2012, caused tension. Diplomats are discussing the terms of the trip.

China “firmly” opposes any meeting between foreign government officials and the Dalai Lama, the People’s Daily newspaper said in a commentary today attributed to an author identified as Zhong Sheng, a name that’s a homonym in Chinese for “voice of China.” China accuses the Nobel Peace Prize winner, who lives in exile in India, of waging a campaign for independence, while he says he is seeking autonomy for Tibet.

“I think what is important is that we have a strong bilateral relationship with China of the kind that has seen U.K. trade with China in the last year rise very significantly,” Cameron’s spokesman, Jean-Christophe Gray, told reporters in London today. “We don’t comment on the prime minister’s travel plans.”

Asked if Cameron intends to meet the Dalai Lama again, Gray said “he has no plans to do so.”

Cameron has visited China once as premier, in November 2010, when he stopped on his way to a Group of 20 summit in Seoul. On that occasion, he refused a Chinese request to remove a poppy from his lapel, worn in memory of Britain’s war dead. The flower has a difference resonance in China, which lost two opium wars with Britain in the 19th century.

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