World News

China cancels more Norway visits after Nobel prize

OSLO (Reuters) - China called off several more official visits to and from Norway after the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, Norway said on Wednesday.

Having already cancelled two cabinet-level meetings this week, China called off a trip next week by 17 senior Norwegian civil servants and various other contacts, Oslo’s Foreign Ministry said.

But some lower level contacts between the two nations were continuing, suggesting Beijing may not want to jeopardise long-term relations with the Nordic country, analysts said.

“We regret that many important meetings with Chinese counterparts have been cancelled or postponed,” said Ragnhild Imerslund, a Norwegian foreign ministry spokeswoman.

Officials at the Chinese embassy in Oslo were not available for comment on Wednesday. China has denounced the prize to Liu as an “obscenity” and said the award would damage relations with Norway, the host country of the award.

As well as the week-long study trip across China by the 17 civil servants, a visit by Chinese judicial delegates due this week in Norway has been postponed because of “acute official duties,” Imerslund said.

Another visit, by senior Chinese police officials, was cancelled without any reason given, and several members of a delegation due in Norway next week to study social policies can no longer come either, she said.

China was not thought likely to break all links with Norway.

“Such a response would have been seen as disproportionate,” Jan Egeland, head of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs think-tank, told Reuters. “You don’t shoot sparrows with cannons.”

On Tuesday the Norwegian prime minister was shown on Norwegian television warmly conversing and exchanging jokes with the Chinese vice-minister for finance on the margins of climate finance talks in Ethiopia.

And a senior civil servant in the Norwegian fisheries ministry continued his duties in Beijing as usual, while his minister had seen her meetings with Chinese officials cancelled.

“Relations at the working level are continuing,” Egeland said. “I expect more political exchanges ... being frozen or delayed until, or a little after, the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in December.”

“The big question is whether this situation will continue into 2011. Personally I don’t think so,” he added.

Editing by Charles Dick