Jeremy Hunt's "terrible" gaffe in China

Jeremy Hunt red-faced after saying Chinese wife is Japanese while on trip to boost UK-China ties

Relations between Japan and China have been strained for years, with bitter territorial disputes over islands in the East China Sea and long-running grievances dating back to World War II a factor.

Jeremy Hunt accidentally referred to his Chinese wife as Japanese today in a freakish gaffe on his debut as Foreign Secretary in Beijing.

Hunt said Britain appreciates China's achievements in poverty reduction as well as economic and social rights.

The newly-appointed foreign secretary began his first official trip on an inauspicious note, telling dignitaries in Beijing: "My wife is Japanese".

Lucia Guo, who has been married to the former health secretary since 2009, hails from the central Chinese city of Xi'an.

"My wife is Chinese and my children are half-Chinese and so we have Chinese grandparents who live in Xian and strong family connections in China", he added.

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"My wife is Chinese, sorry", he said, adding: "That is a bad mistake to make".

Hunt, who took over this month following the resignation of his predecessor Boris Johnson, was visiting Beijing on only his second trip outside Britain since assuming his role as foreign minister.

China has signalled it is ready to open discussions on a possible free trade deal with Britain once it leaves the European Union, the foreign secretary has said.

"We also of course discussed our trading relationship, and I think the best way to continue to grow our trade and strength and trust between Britain and China is to be able to have the kind of open and frank discussions we had this morning".

Mr Hunt said: "We had extensive discussions about one country, two systems and the current situation in Hong Kong, and we had a very open and frank discussion about the concerns raised by a number of people". Aside from trade, planned topics of discussion include "climate change, development, security and non-proliferation and enforcing United Nations sanctions on North Korea", according to the foreign office.

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