German defence minister to discuss human rights on China trip

German defence minister to discuss human rights on China trip

German Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg said on Tuesday that he plans to deepen security policy and military cooperation during a two-day trip to China, dpa reported.

"We have great potential here," the conservative politician said said during a visit to the Great Wall at the start of his visit to Beijing.

Guttenberg intends to speak frankly to the Chinese leadership about human rights. He said it was not possible to stay silent on this subject nor was it an option to offend anyone. He said it was important to achieve the right tone in the discussions.

The award of the Nobel Peace Price to the jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo three weeks ago brought the issue of human rights in China to the attention of the world again. Since then Chinese state security has stepped up its measures against activists.

The German government wants Liu Xiaobo to be released and allowed to receive the prize in person in Oslo.

Guttenberg was due to meet his Chinese counterpart Liang Guanglie in the afternoon. In addition to discussing bilateral relations, the agenda should include future NATO strategy, the war in Afghanistan and the fight against piracy.

   China is not involved in the war in Afghanistan but since 2008 has had an average of three ships securing sea routes off Somalia. Germany is involved in the EU's separate deployment there known as Atalanta.

Security policy cooperation between China and Germany has been in place for years. The German armed forces have trained more than 100 Chinese officers and military leaders from both countries meet regularly for a strategic dialogue and security policy seminars.

During the talks the Chinese may again demand a lifting of the EU arms embargo imposed in the wake of the clampdown on the democracy movement near Tiananmen Square in 1989.

On Wednesday, the German defence minister is due to to meet Chen Bingde, the head of the general staff of the People's Liberation Army, as well as Vice President Xi Jinping, who is seen as the likely successor to President Hu Jintao. The handover of power to a new generation is scheduled to take place in 2012. Xi is the head of the powerful Central Military Commission.

Later on Wednesday, Guttenberg is due to leave on a short visit to Mongolia. In the capital Ulaanbaatar he is to thank the country for its support in Afghanistan. For almost a year a Mongolian unit of around 45 soldiers has been securing a German base in Feizabad in northern Afghanistan.

Guttenberg is scheduled to return to Germany on Thursday.

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