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UK "continues to seek close ties with China" despite nuclear deal delay

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Britain will continue to seek a strong relationship with China, a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Theresa May said on Monday following the decision last week to delay approval of a partly Chinese-funded nuclear reactor project.

[LONDON] Britain will continue to seek a strong relationship with China, a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Theresa May said on Monday following the decision last week to delay approval of a partly Chinese-funded nuclear reactor project.

The last-minute decision to review the building of Britain's first new nuclear plant in decades, has raised concerns that Ms May could alter the trajectory set by her predecessor David Cameron towards closer ties with China, particularly on the issue of Chinese investment in UK infrastructure.

But Ms May's spokeswoman said it was natural for the incoming government to want to look at the plans in detail, adding that Britain still valued its ties with China.

"With the role that China has to play on world affairs, on the global economy, on a whole range of international issues, we are going to continue to seek a strong relationship with China," she said.

Under plans drawn up by Mr Cameron, French utility EDF and Chinese partner China General Nuclear would be responsible for the 18-billion-pound (S$32 billion) cost of the project, while Britain has committed to pay a minimum price for the power generated by the plant for 35 years.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said they had "noted" the British decision and called for the project to go ahead.

China "hopes that Britain can reach a decision as soon as possible, to ensure the project's smooth implementation", she added, without elaborating.

A former colleague of Ms May said on Saturday she had previously expressed concern about the national security implications of the planned Chinese investment. Asked whether national security would play a part in the review of the Hinkley Point nuclear project, the spokeswoman declined to comment on the review process, other than to say that it would look at all component parts of the deal.

China's official Xinhua news agency published an English-language commentary saying China would not tolerate"unwanted accusations" about its investments in Britain. Xinhua said people might think Britain was trying to erect a wall of protectionism.

This "will surely stain its credibility as an open economy and might deter possible investors from China and other parts of the world in the future", read the commentary, which is not a government statement but offers a reflection of official thinking.

REUTERS