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Norwegian PM visits China as part of restoration of ties

Associated Press logo Associated Press 7/04/2017
Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, left, walks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during a welcome ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China on Friday April 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan) © The Associated Press Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, left, walks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during a welcome ceremony outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China on Friday April 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

BEIJING — Norway's prime minister began a visit to China on Friday as part of a restoration of full contacts between the two countries, more than six years after Beijing froze Oslo out over the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to an imprisoned Chinese dissident.

Following a welcoming ceremony Friday, Erna Solberg was told by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang that, "Your visit symbolizes the normalization of China-Norwegian relationship."

Solberg, who was accompanied by Foreign Minister Borge Brende and a trade delegation, replied that the normalization process would help the countries "find a lot of common areas of shared interests to work together."

"China is playing a key role in the efforts to combat climate change, and I welcome the fact that this is high on Premier Li's agenda," a Norwegian government statement quoted Solberg as saying. It said Li expressed an interest in strengthening cooperation between Norway and China in the Arctic.

In 2010, Norway's Nobel committee awarded dissident Liu Xiaobo the peace prize, infuriating China. Although Norway's government has no say over the Nobel panel's choices, China suspended a bilateral trade deal and restricted imports of Norwegian salmon.

Liu was convicted of subversion in 2009 and sentenced to 11 years in prison after he wrote and disseminated Charter '08, a document calling for democracy.

Beijing had always demanded that Norway recognize the "error" of awarding the prize to Liu, but was not specific about what it wanted. China had characterized the awarding of the prize as "gross interference" in its affairs.

In December, the countries said normal relations had resumed. The Chinese Foreign Ministry then said that Norway "made important and explicit statements on issues concerning China's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

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