UK minister scraps China trip as Beijing complains


Mon, Feb 18, 2019 - Page 5

British Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond has canceled a trip to China, a government official said, a day after a Chinese official in London criticized the British secretary of defense for making a return to a “Cold War mentality.”

The trip was to discuss issues affecting China-UK economic and financial relations.

Hammond was expected to discuss plans for a stock market connection between the countries, and wanted to fix a date for the postponed UK-China Economic and Financial Dialogue.

“The chancellor is not traveling to China at this time,” a spokesperson for the British Treasury said on Saturday. “No trip was ever announced or confirmed.”

British Secretary of Defense Gavin Williamson on Monday last week said in a speech that the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth would be deployed to Asia on its maiden voyage and that China is “developing its modern military capability and its commercial power.”

Williamson said that the deployment was a UK show of strength as China increasingly disputes the waters in the region.

An spokesman at China’s embassy in London said that Williamson “made groundless accusations” that he said reflected a type of “Cold War mentality.”

“China firmly opposes that,” the spokesman said. “Meanwhile, China has also noticed the prime minister’s spokesman stressed that the UK holds strong and constructive relationships with China.”

Separately, Williamson drew a jibe on Saturday from Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov at the Munich Security Conference.

In a reference to a speech in Williamson accused Russia of “trying to goad the West” into a new arms race, Lavrov mixed up his title.

“If you listen to some people like the minister of war — oh, sorry the minister of defense — of the United Kingdom, then you might get an impression that nobody except NATO have the right to be anywhere,” Lavrov said as he discussed security in the Arctic region.

Hammond’s visit to China would be scheduled at a later date, the official said.