China scraps Norway talks as Nobel tensions rise
Norway said yesterday that China had indefinitely postponed bilateral trade talks in what experts said was an escalation of tension ahead of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony honouring Chinese rights activist Liu Xiaobo.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee angered Beijing last month by awarding the Nobel to Liu, who is serving an 11-year jail term on subversion charges for his role in advocating democratic reform and an end to the Communist party's power monopoly.
The Asian superpower has snubbed Norwegian ministers and pressured diplomats to boycott the December 10 award ceremony, set to focus the world's media spotlight on human rights in China.
Norway, the world's fifth-largest oil exporter, and China have been negotiating for the past two years a bilateral trade deal that could serve as a blueprint for the European Union's potential trade agreement with China.
"There has been a delay and at this point we have not set a new date," Oeyvind Arum, a spokesman for Norway's Industry and Trade Ministry, told Reuters. "The next round of negotiations was due ... during Christmas and New Year."
Neither the Chinese embassy in Oslo nor China's Foreign Ministry were immediately available for comment.