UK foreign minister discusses Xinjiang with Chinese counterpart

FILE PHOTO: British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly visits Malta

LONDON (Reuters) - British foreign minister James Cleverly said on Monday he had spoken with Chinese counterpart Qin Gang and raised alleged human rights abuses in China's western region of Xinjiang.

"I raised China’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang & the need for peace in the Taiwan Strait," Cleverly said in a Twitter post. "We also agreed to work together to resolve issues on climate and trade."

Qin, who was appointed as foreign minister in December, told Cleverly that China poses no challenge or threat to Britain, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Qin said a sound China-Britain relationship not only serves the interests of both countries, but also contributes to world peace and development, according to Xinhua.

The remarks come with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak facing pressure from some within his party to re-classify China as a "threat" instead of a "systemic competitor" in an update to the government's defence and foreign policy strategy.

In response to a question about China at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, Sunak said his government will do what was necessary to protect the UK and "engage with China on trying to resolve some of these pressing problems where we can".

"I've been very clear China represents a systemic challenge to our values and our interests ... we'll take the steps needed to protect ourselves against that," he said.

(Reporting by Muvija M; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Jonathan Oatis)