LONDON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will press China's foreign minister on the issue of Internet freedom, a growing irritant in ties between the two powers, a senior U.S. official said on Wednesday.
Clinton, in London for meetings on Yemen and Afghanistan, will meet Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on Thursday and is likely to raise the dispute, which has been brought into focus by U.S. search engine giant Google's threat to abandon the Chinese market over charges of government interference.
"I think it is likely that they will end up discussing, maybe not the specific Google situation but the broader issue," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Clinton has already publicly asked China to respond to Google's charges, which include censorship and a sophisticated hacking attack mounted from within the country.
She has also laid out a broad U.S. policy calling for unfettered Internet access around the world and said that countries or individuals who engage in cyber attacks should face consequences.
"I think she will reiterate her call ... about wanting a transparent inquiry with transparent results," the official said.
"The secretary has made her position clear publicly about what needs to happen here, and she'll reiterate that to Yang and we have reiterated that to the Chinese in other contexts as well," the official said. "I think that is the track that we're on right now."
While Chinese state media have reacted sharply to the U.S. criticism, China's Foreign Ministry has signaled it does not want the dispute to boil over and further strain a relationship already under pressure over U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and U.S. charges that Beijing artificially undervalues its currency.
Google has said it wants talks with the Chinese government about solving its complaints. Beijing denies the hacking accusations -- which some experts say could have been organized by the government -- and says it in turn is a major victim of hack attacks.
China defends its Internet controls as necessary to protect minors, although many other sensitive issues are blocked, including discussion of the 1989 bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations around Tiananmen Square.
China has blocked sites like Facebook, Twitter and Google's YouTube following ethnic riots in restive Xinjiang and Tibet.
Reporting by Andrew Quinn; Editing by Jon Hemming