Philip Hammond, U.K. chancellor of the exchequer, departs 11 Downing Street in London, U.K. (Photographer: Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg)

U.K. Chancellor Scraps China Trip as Beijing Complains

(Bloomberg) -- U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond has canceled a trip to China, a government official said, a day after a Chinese official in London criticized Britain’s defense secretary for making a return to a “Cold War mentality.”

The trip was to discuss issues affecting China-U.K. economic and financial relations. Hammond was expected to talk about plans for a stock market connection between the countries and wanted to fix a date for the postponed U.K.-China Economic and Financial Dialogue.

“The chancellor is not traveling to China at this time,” a spokesperson for the Treasury said Saturday. “No trip was ever announced or confirmed.”

Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson on Monday said in a speech the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth would be deployed to Asia on its maiden voyage and said China is “developing its modern military capability and its commercial power.” Williamson said the deployment was a U.K. show-of-strength as China increasingly disputes the waters in the region.

A spokesman at China’s embassy in London said Williamson “made groundless accusations” that he said reflected a type of “Cold War mentality.”

“China firmly opposes that,” the spokesman said. “Meanwhile, China has also noticed the prime minister’s spokesman stressed that U.K. holds strong and constructive relationships with China.”

Separately, Williamson drew a jibe on Saturday from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the Munich Security Conference. In a reference to a speech in which Williamson accused Russia of “trying to goad the west” into a new arms race, Lavrov mixed up his title.

“If you listen to some people like the minister of war - oh, sorry the minister of defense - of the United Kingdom, then you might get an impression that nobody except NATO have the right to be anywhere,” Lavrov said as he discussed security in the Arctic region.

Hammond’s visit to China will be scheduled at a later date, according to the official.

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