OSLO, Norway - China's foreign minister on Thursday sought a speedy conclusion to a free trade deal with Norway but warned Olso against "politicising" the Nobel by awarding another Peace Prize to a Chinese dissident.
Talks on a free-trade pact began in 2008, but relations between Oslo and Beijing were frozen from 2010 to 2016 after the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to a Chinese dissident, Liu Xiabao.
Negotiations resumed in 2017.
"Given the impact of COVID-19, early completion of the China-Norway FTA negotiations is of great significance to the bilateral economic bilateral relations and trade as well as to the efforts to keep the global supply chain open and connected," Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters during a visit to Oslo as part of a European tour.
"The two sides need to speed up the negotiation and bring it to early conclusion," he said.
But the minister warned against "interference" when asked about a proposal mooted by a Norwegian lawmaker turned minister to nominate the people of Hong Kong for a Nobel.
Beginning in early June 2019, Hong Kong was hit by seven straight months of huge and often violent pro-democracy protests in which more than 9,000 people were arrested.
"In the past, and today, in the future, China will firmly reject any attempt by anyone to use the Nobel Peace Prize to interfere in China's internal affairs. This position of the Chinese side is rock-firm and we do not want to see anyone politicising the Nobel Peace Prize," Wang said.
This year's Nobel peace prize will be announced in Oslo on October 9.
Wang also took a swipe at Washington with which Beijing has been engaged in a war of words over who is to blame for the novel coronavirus since US President Donald Trump described it as a "Chinese" illness in March.
"While China was the first country to report to the WHO and relevant countries about the emergence of the virus, it doesn't mean that the virus originated in China," he said.
"And actually, for the past months, we have seen reports and emerging information showing that the virus emerged in different parts of the world and many of them emerged earlier than China."