World News

China says good Norway ties "hard" after dissident's Nobel

BEIJING (Reuters) - Norway’s support for the Nobel Peace Prize to a Chinese dissident has hamstrung bilateral relations, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Thursday, after Norway said China had indefinitely postponed trade talks.

“Norway has expressed its open support for the Nobel Committee’s decision, which makes it difficult to maintain friendly relations, as in the past,” ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said when asked about the trade talks’ suspension.

A Norwegian official said on Tuesday that a new date for free-trade talks had not been set ahead of the December 10 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony for Chinese rights activist Liu Xiaobo, who is serving an 11-year prison term on subversion charges.

Norway, the world’s fifth-largest oil exporter, and China have been negotiating a bilateral trade deal over the past two years, which could serve as a blueprint for the European Union’s potential trade agreement with China.

The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded annually by a Norwegian committee, which drew Beijing’s ire in October for selecting Liu for the prize based on his advocacy for democratic reform in China and an end to the Communist Party’s monopoly on power.

“It is not an issue of freedom of speech and human rights, but an issue of respecting other countries’ legal sovereignty and China’s path of development and social system,” Jiang, speaking at a regular news briefing, said of the award.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said in early November that he would not break with the tradition to attend the prize ceremony in Oslo despite pressure from Beijing.

The Norwegian government has no say over who receives the prize.

“Some members of the Nobel Committee have said this year’s award was a politicised decision to produce changes in China. From this, you can clearly see that some have political intentions that violate the aim of the Nobel Peace Prize,” Jiang said.

Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Ben Blanchard and Miral Fahmy