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China's Joint Staff Department Deputy Chief Admiral Sun Jianguo speaks at the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore June 5, 2016. REUTERS/Edgar Su

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BEIJING (Reuters) - China hopes to establish counter-terrorism intelligence sharing with France as the Asian giant seeks greater international support for its anti-terror fight, China's state-run Xinhua news agency reported citing an exchange between officials of the two countries.

Hundreds of people have been killed in the past few years in China's western region of Xinjiang, home to the mainly Muslim Uighur people. The government blames the violence on Islamist militants who want to establish an independent state called East Turkestan.

Admiral Sun Jianguo, a deputy chief of staff of China's People's Liberation Army, told French Secretary-General of Defence and National Security Louis Gautier that China and France had model military-to-military ties.

"China was deeply affected by the terrorist attacks on France last year," Sun told Gautier on the sidelines of a security forum in Singapore, Xinhua reported late on Saturday.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a series of attacks on entertainment spots on a November evening in Paris that killed 130 people and injured many more.

"I believe the war against terrorism is mainly a war of intelligence," Xinhua quoted Sun as saying. "China hopes to carry out intelligence cooperation with France on the issue of fighting terrorism."

France agreed to strengthen intelligence cooperation in relation to terrorism, Xinhua cited Gautier as saying in response.

China has sought Western support for its own "war on terror" since the attacks in Paris.

The government has blamed much of the terrorist violence in China on Islamist separatists. But rights groups say its repressive policies in the region have fuelled the unrest, a charge the government denies.

Western countries have generally been reluctant to share intelligence with China or otherwise cooperate, while independent experts on Uighur issues have said China has provided little evidence to prove the existence of a cohesive militant group operating in Xinjiang.

The U.S. and the European Union have also criticized what they see as human rights abuses in the region, including the suppression of religious and cultural practices.

Last week, the U.S. State Department said its counter-terrorism cooperation with China was limited and expressed concern about the lack of transparency in China's anti-terror campaign.

(Reporting by Megha Rajagopalan and Ben Blanchard; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

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