China, Britain pledge to improve strained ties

BEIJING: The British and Chinese foreign ministers pledged Tuesday to work together to strengthen ties after the two nations clashed over human rights, climate change and Iran's nuclear drive.

"I come here in the spirit of partnership as we face common challenges together," visiting British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said at talks with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi.

Miliband is meeting Chinese leaders in Beijing, with efforts to secure China's support for tougher UN sanctions against Iran over the long-running nuclear crisis at the top of the agenda.

"We will be able to discuss foreign policy challenges in a spirit that recognises the personal relationship that we have established but also the institutional links between our countries," he added.

China, a close Iran ally and now its biggest trading partner, is the only permanent member of the UN Security Council to refuse to agree to tougher sanctions against the Islamic republic despite mounting pressure from the West.

Britain and other Western nations are pushing for more UN sanctions against Iran over its nuclear drive, which they suspect is a cover for efforts to build the atomic bomb despite Tehran's denials.

Relations between Beijing and London soured last year when Miliband's younger brother Ed, the British climate change secretary, accused China of "hijacking" the global climate change talks in Copenhagen.

Britain was also furious at China's execution in December of a Briton on drug smuggling charges.

"The relationship between China and Britain has been developing in a positive direction. We are committed to working with Britain to advance the comprehensive strategic partnership," Yang said.