China's Xi calls for appropriate handling of disputes with Britain

Chinese President Xi Jinping and British Prime Minister Theresa May pose for a photo at the G-20 summit in Hangzhou, China.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and British Prime Minister Theresa May pose for a photo at the G-20 summit in Hangzhou, China.PHOTO: EPA

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China and Britain should increase mutual political trust and appropriately handle disputes, Chinese President Xi Jinping told British Prime Minister Theresa May, as the two nations grapple with a delayed US$8 billion (S$11 billion) nuclear power investment from China.

Meeting Mrs May on the sidelines of the G-20 leaders' summit in the Chinese city of Hangzhou on Monday, Mr Xi said China wanted to continue to promote "even more stable, better" relations with Britain's new government, China's Foreign Ministry said in a statement issued late on Monday.

The two should continue to promote cooperation in the areas of investment, energy, infrastructure and finance, Mr Xi added. "Both sides should increase political mutual trust, expand common interests and appropriately handle disputes," he said.

There was no direct mention in the statement of the delayed nuclear project.

Since taking office, Mrs May has delayed a decision on whether to back a US$24 billion nuclear project at Hinkley Point, to be built by French firm EDF with the help of US$8 billion from China.

Mrs May has asked her security advisers to review the project. It would be Britain's first new nuclear power plant in decades.

Cast as the jewel illustrating a new "Golden Era" of relations between China and Britain, the Hinkley financing deal was signed in Downing Street during a state visit to Britain by President Xi Jinping last year.

A British official told reporters at the G-20 that Mr Xi told Mrs May he was open to a bilateral trade agreement between the two countries.