Norway, China in first contacts since Nobel dispute
Norway and China met on Monday on the sidelines of an Asia-Europe summit, marking their first official contact since a Chinese dissident was given the Nobel Peace Prize, the Norwegian prime minister said.
Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg told public broadcaster NRK that he had held a brief meeting with his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao while attending the summit in Laos.
Relations cooled between the two countries after the pro-democracy dissident Liu Xiaobo, who Beijing considers a “criminal”, was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.
The Nobel committee, which is independent of the government though its members are chosen by the Norwegian parliament, angered China which broke off all high-level contact with Norway.
In Laos, Stoltenberg said he had thanked the Chinese premier for the inclusion of Norway, along with Switzerland and Bangladesh, in the Asia-Europe Meeting.
“It is the first time that Norway has joined this meeting place, and so it’s natural to say thank you for the support that has made this possible,” he said.
He declined to comment on what effect the meeting could have on future relations between Oslo and Beijing.
“We would like to have normal political relations with China and when that’s possible we will say so,” he said.
“I do not want to speculate on the significance of Norway getting accepted into this forum but in it we see a positive contribution to a closer dialogue with the participating countries, which includes China,” he added.
Despite the freeze in diplomatic relations and the restrictions China imposed on imported Norwegian salmon, trade has continued to prosper between the two countries over the past two years.
Last week, media reported that Chinese deputy foreign minister Ma Zhaoxu said it was up to Norway to make a gesture to normalise relations between the two countries.