A diplomatic drama between Norway and China escalated, when Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre had a relatively long discussion with China’s Ambassador in Oslo, Tang Guoqiang, over the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize. Støre said he told Tang that Norway regrets China’s reaction.
Chinese officials have withdrawn from several more high-level meetings with their Norwegian counterparts, and claimed that Norway has “encouraged criminals,” after the Peace Prize was awarded to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.
Støre, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and other Norwegian government ministers have repeatedly tried to explain to Chinese officials that the actions of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which selects the Peace Prize winner, are independent of the government. Chinese officials either haven’t understood that, or claimed they’re still offended because the Norwegian government applauded the choice of Liu (external link). They consider Liu a criminal.
Støre said he told Tang that both he and his government colleagues were themselves now astonished that the Chinese would react with measures that can hinder cooperation between Norway and China.
Støre told reporters after his meeting with Tang that the government must protect the integrity of the Nobel Committee. “The committee exists in Norway, and has worked in Norway for more than 100 years,” Støre said, stressing that “it makes its own decisions.”
The foreign minister said Tang, for his part, repeated that his country believes the prize has damaged relations between Norway and China and offended the Chinese people.
“It was important for me to stress that Norway wants to further its broad cooperation with China within several areas of common interest,” Støre told news bureau NTB. “I said I regretted the reactions we’ve seen from the Chinese side during the past week.”
Støre also said he thinks there’s a limit to how far China can go with its negative reaction, and that he told Tang that China “must be responsible for its decisions to harm our relations and interests as a reaction to the decision of the Nobel Committee.”
He also urged China to release Liu, who’s currently serving an 11-year prison term, and to lift restrictions placed on his wife, Liu Xia.