New UK foreign minister makes 'Japanese wife' gaffe in China

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Exchanging pleasantries as his United Kingdom delegation sat down to talks with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi and officials, Mr Hunt sought to demonstrate his family ties to China.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi says his country's door of dialogue with the United States on resolving bilateral trade disputes remains open, reiterating that Beijing is not after a trade war with Washington.

Hunt added: "My wife is Chinese and my children are half-Chinese, and so we have Chinese grandparents who live in Xi'an and strong family connections in China".

The former Health Secretary is married to Lucia Guo, with whom he has three children.

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Mr. Hunt, who took over this month following the resignation of his predecessor Boris Johnson, was visiting Beijing on only his second trip outside Britain since assuming his role as Foreign Secretary.

Compounding the embarrassment, Hunt accidentally picked the nationality most likely to provoke the ire of his hosts.

Hunt is in China to strengthen trade ties with Beijing ahead of Britain's departure from the European Union next year.

Under the "one country, two systems" model, Beijing promised to let Hong Kong maintain wide autonomy and civil liberties, but fears are growing that China's leaders are backtracking by oppressing the political opposition.

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The mistake of calling a Chinese person Japanese is seen as culturally offensive because the two countries have been bitter rivals for centuries.

"My wife is Japanese ― my wife is Chinese", he told his Chinese counterpart. He said Mr. Wang had made an offer "to open discussions about a possible free trade deal done between Britain and China post Brexit".

China and Britain should also oppose trade protectionism and uphold global free trade, Wang said.

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