Norwegian leader meets with China's Xi as ties restored

Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, shakes hands with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg at the Great Hall of People in Beijing, China on Monday April 10, 2017. (Yohei Kanasashi/Pool Photo via AP)
Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, second from left, talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, at the Great Hall of People in Beijing, China on Monday April 10, 2017. (Yohei Kanasashi/Pool Photo via AP)
Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, holds a talk with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, second from left, at the Great Hall of People in Beijing, China on Monday April 10, 2017. (Yohei Kanasashi/Pool Photo via AP)

BEIJING — Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Norway's prime minister on Monday as the two countries sought to move beyond a six-year rift following the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to an imprisoned Chinese dissident.

Meeting in Beijing, Xi commended Prime Minister Erna Solberg for her "hard work" in helping normalize ties between the countries. It was the first visit from a Norwegian prime minister to China in 10 years.

"Your visit this time holds a lot of significance," Xi said. "This is the first high-level visit since the normalization of China-Norway relations in December."

China suspended its bilateral trade deal with Norway and restricted imports of Norwegian salmon when the peace prize was awarded to Liu Xiaobo in 2010.

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

Although the peace prize is awarded in Norway's capital, Oslo, the Norwegian government has no say over the Nobel panel's decisions.

Despite that, Chinese officials demanded that Norway recognize the "error" of awarding the prize to Liu, which China deemed as interference in its internal affairs.

Relations resumed after China's foreign ministry said Norway made "explicit statements" in support of China's sovereignty.

Xi noted on Monday that Norway was one of the first Western countries to recognize the People's Republic of China upon its founding in in 1949. He recalled visiting Norway on an official trip 38 years ago as a secretary to former Vice Premier Geng Biao and said the trip had left a deep impression on him.

Solberg said she appreciated the Chinese government's hospitality during a visit that began Friday. She added that Norway's King Harald V was planning a state visit to China next year after receiving an invitation from Xi.

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