Schmid seeks increased dialogue with Beijing

Schmid (left) in talks with President Hu in Beijing Keystone

The Swiss defence minister, Samuel Schmid, says bilateral relations with China have entered a new phase.

This content was published on February 28, 2006 - 20:59

He made the statement at the end of a three-day visit to Beijing where he held talks with President Hu Jintao and the Chinese defence minister, Cao Gangchuan.

Tuesday's meeting with Hu had not been expected. Media reports said the Chinese president used the opportunity to attack a decision by Taiwan, announced on Monday, to scrap a council on eventual unification and its 15-year-old unification guidelines.

Hu said that any attempt to split Taiwan from China was doomed to failure.

Schmid reportedly told Hu that he believed in the importance of dialogue between Beijing and Taipei.

A Swiss defence ministry spokesman said Schmid had broached the subject of human rights. The talks also covered North Korea's and Iran's controversial nuclear programmes.

Following the 45-minute meeting Schmid said Switzerland was interested in a constructive dialogue with China on all aspects.

South Korea

On Monday Schmid held talks with Chinese Defence Minister Cao with a view to increasing strategic discussions between the two countries.

During his three-day visit, Schmid visited a tank division of China's armed forces and met members of the Swiss expatriate community in Beijing.

The Swiss defence minister is due to continue his tour of Asia with a visit to South Korea on Wednesday for talks with the South Korean defence minister, Yoon Kwang-woong.

The Swiss government last year lifted a ban on sales of arms and weapons components to South Korea.

Schmid is also scheduled to meet Swiss personnel stationed on the demarcation line between North and South Korea.

They form part of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission (NNSC) in Korea, which was appointed to monitor the armistice between the two countries in 1953.

In total, five Swiss and four Swedish representatives are stationed in the village of Panmunjom.

In 2003 the Swiss foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, became the first foreign government official to cross the demarcation line.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Switzerland was one of the first western countries to establish official relations with China in 1950.

Swiss troops have been patrolling the demilitarised zone between South and North Korea since 1953.

Both countries are among Switzerland's top five trading partners in Asia. Swiss exports to China totalled SFr3 billion ($2.3 billion) in 2004 and those to South Korea totalled SFr1.3 billion in 2004.

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