European foreign ministers will confront China over Kosovo, the Darfur conflict and its tacit support for Myanmar at a major EU-Asia meeting which began in Hamburg on Monday, diplomats said.
German Foreign Minister Steinmeier, left, and his Chinese colleague Yang Jiechi
"Ministers and EU officials will raise the issue of Darfur directly with the Chinese delegation," a German source told AFP at the eighth EU-Asia Meeting (ASEM) of foreign ministers.
The meeting is also expected to see Myanmar face pressure over its decision to extend the house arrest of pro-democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi and more calls for China to condemn the move.
The EU is highly critical of Myanmar's decision to extend house arrest for Aung San Suu Kyi
Observers say that economic and diplomatic support from China and Russia is allowing Myanmar's military rulers to rebuff international calls to release Aung San Suu Kyi, despite strong pressure from the West.
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso raised the issue with his Myanmar counterpart Nyan Win ahead of the ASEM meeting, Aso's spokesman told reporters.
He quoted Win as saying extending the detention of the Nobel peace laureate who has spent most of the past 17 years in house arrest, had been "a difficult decision."
The Kosovo question
China has opposed Kosovo's secession from Serbia
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said on Monday that he had raised the fraught issue of Kosovo's future status in bilateral talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi on Monday.
Western powers introduced a resolution in the UN Security Council earlier this month backing a UN plan calling for the Serbian province's "internationally supervised independence."
But as with Darfur, China has taken a different position within the council and is opposing efforts to impose independence in the face of Serbian resistance.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who has made Darfur a priority since taking up his post earlier this month, is expected to lead efforts to bring China to heel over its backing for the Sudanese government.
He was set to meet with Yang and propose including China in a new contact group of nations on Darfur.
The UN has called Darfur one of the world's worst humanitarian crises today
China's close ties with Sudan -- it sells arms to the African state and buys more than half its oil output -- has bedeviled US-led attempts on the Security Council to use sanctions to force
President Omar al-Beshir to let UN troops into Darfur.
According to UN figures, fighting in the western Sudanese region has claimed at least 200,000 lives since 2003 when an ethnic minority rebellion met with a scorched earth response from the government and allied Arab militias.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has put Darfur on the agenda for the G8 summit next week, while French President Nicolas Sarkozy has warned that neither this issue nor the Iranian and North Korean nuclear crises can be resolved "without strong and positive Chinese involvement."
China has been blocking US-led attempts at the UN Security Council to use sanctions to force Sudan to allow UN troops into the region to stem the bloodshed.
On Friday, the council endorsed plans for a hybrid UN-African Union force but its deployment remains subject to the approval of Khartoum.
China says it needs to strike a balance between fighting pollution and fighting poverty
The ASEM meeting is due to focus strongly on climate change, which Merkel has put high on the agenda for the Group of Eight summit. She is hosting the event in the Baltic Sea resort of Heiligendamm on June 6-8.
Merkel hoped to tie China and India into a new accord on fighting greenhouse gas emissions once the Kyoto protocol runs out in 2012, but Yang refused to be drawn on whether Beijing would agree to restrictions in the post-Kyoto era, saying China needs to strike a balance between fighting pollution and fighting poverty.
The ASEM meeting began against a backdrop of protest on Monday as thousands of anti-globalization demonstrators gearing up for the G8 summit took to the streets of this German port city.
They were kept away from the venue of the ASEM meeting.