UPDATE 1-White House: Disappointed Google, China could not agree

Mon Mar 22, 2010 5:29pm EDT

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WASHINGTON, March 22 (Reuters) - The White House voiced regret on Monday at a disagreement between Google Inc (GOOG.O) and the Chinese government that prompted Google to move its Internet search service offshore to Hong Kong.

"We are disappointed that Google and the Chinese government were unable to reach an agreement that would allow Google to continue operating its search services in China on its google.cn Website," said Mike Hammer, spokesman for President Barack Obama's National Security Council.

"National Security staff was informed by Google shortly before their announcement was made. Google made its decision based on what it believed was in its interest," he said.

Google earlier announced traffic to its mainland Chinese search site google.cn was being redirected to google.com.hk, following unsuccessful talks with Beijing about operating an uncensored search engine in the country.

The move comes amid heightened tensions between China and the United States over a range of issues including Internet freedom, the yuan exchange rate against the dollar, sanctions against Iran's nuclear program, and U.S. weapons sales to Taiwan.

Hammer said the United States opposes censorship and is committed to Internet freedom, but stressed that the White House did not anticipate this issue would cloud relations between the two nations in other areas.

"The U.S.-China relationship is mature enough to sustain differences, and while we seek to expand cooperation on issues of mutual interest with China, we will candidly and frankly address areas of disagreement," he said.

(Reporting by Alister Bull; Editing by Stacey Joyce)

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