(AP) -- China's dispute with Internet giant Google, which is threatening to pull out of the country over concerns about censorship and security, should not be linked to bilateral ties with the United States, a top Chinese official said Thursday.
The comments from Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei come hours before U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is to deliver a speech in Washington on the Obama administration's strategy for protecting freedom on the Internet.
Google said on Jan. 12 that it will remain in China only if the government relents on rules requiring the censorship of content the ruling communist party considers subversive. The ultimatum came after Google said it uncovered a computer attack that tried to plunder its software coding and the e-mail accounts of human rights activists protesting Chinese policies.
The United States has said it will lodge a formal complaint to Beijing on the alleged hacking attacks.
"The Google case should not be linked with relations between the two governments and countries; otherwise, it's an over-interpretation," China's He told a news conference, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
The Xinhua report did not mention censorship, instead referring to Google's "disagreements with government policies."
The Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that the search giant must obey China's laws and traditions, suggesting it was giving no ground in talks with the company.
"Foreign enterprises in China need to adhere to China's laws and regulations, respect the interests of the general public and cultural traditions and shoulder corresponding responsibilities. Google is no exception," ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu told a news briefing.
There have already been aftershocks from Google's announcement. On Tuesday, Google postponed the launch of two mobile phones in China, adding to the potential commercial fallout from the dispute with Beijing.
The delay affects separate phones made by Motorola and Samsung. The handsets are both powered by Android, a mobile operating software system developed by Google. Both phones were scheduled to debut this week, with China Unicom Ltd. serving as the carrier.
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