U.S. appeals for China understanding on Kosovo

BEIJING (Reuters) - Kosovo’s situation is “unique”, a senior U.S. diplomat told China on Tuesday, trying to assuage Beijing’s opposition to independence for the region from Serbia.

“As I emphasized to our Chinese interlocutors today, it is quite a unique situation in Kosovo, really very unique, and there’s nothing like it in the world,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Chris Hill told reporters in Beijing.

Earlier, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao repeated his government’s objections to Kosovo’s declaration of independence.

“We believe that resolution of the Kosovo issue concerns the peace and stability of the Balkan region, the basic rules of international relations and the authority and role of the Security Council,” Liu told a regular news conference in Beijing.

Kosovo’s action sets a worrying precedent for China’s own territorial integrity. China regards the self-governing island of Taiwan as part of its territory and faces separatist sentiments in its far-western regions of Xinjiang and Tibet.

Liu said China wanted Serbia and Kosovo to reach a mutually acceptable plan through negotiations.

“The Kosovo side’s taking unilateral action could have a series of consequences, creating a severely negative impact on the peace and stability of the Balkan region and the Kosovo goal of creating a multi-ethnic society. China has deep misgivings about this,” Liu said.

Hill, in China primarily to talk with Beijing and his North Korean counterpart about Pyongyang’s nuclear program, said the United States also wanted a good relationship with Serbia.

Serbia has recalled its ambassador from Washington to protest against American recognition of Kosovo, first announced by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday. Russia also strongly opposes independence.

“As Secretary Rice made clear in her statement, we are pleased at the declaration of independence,” Hill said, before leaving for Seoul.

“But we also feel very strongly we want to continue to have a good and substantial relationship with Serbia and ultimately a Balkans that is very much at peace and one that is integrated into the European and Atlantic systems,” he added.

China’s ambassador to the United Nations has warned that Kosovo’s independence declaration could cause conflict and undermine the U.N., and repeated his country’s “deep concern” over the nascent state’s unilateral move.

Wang Guangya told an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council, of which China is a veto-wielding member, that negotiations between Kosovo and Serbia should continue, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday.

“The issue of Kosovo status does have its special nature,” Wang told the session.

“Nevertheless, to terminate negotiations, give up pursuit of a solution acceptable to both parties and replace such efforts with unilateral action will certainly constitute a serious challenge to the fundamental principles of international law.”

The majority ethnic Albanian territory, once ruled as a part of Serbia, has been under United Nations supervision since 1999, when NATO bombing forced the withdrawal of Serb forces that had been attacking Albanians there.

Reporting by Lindsay Beck, Ben Blanchard and Chris Buckley; Editing by Alex Richardson