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UPDATE 1-China's new U.N. envoy says Beijing ready to fight U.S. on trade

Michelle Nichols

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UNITED NATIONS, Aug 2 (Reuters) - China's new ambassador to the United Nations, Zhang Jun, said on Friday that if the United States wanted to fight China on trade, "then we will fight" and warned that Beijing was prepared to take countermeasures over new U.S. tariffs.

U.S. President Donald Trump vowed on Thursday to slap a 10% tariff on $300 billion of Chinese imports from next month, sharply escalating a trade row between the world's biggest economies.

Zhang described Trump's move as "an irrational, irresponsible act" and urged the United States to "come back to the right track."

"China's position is very clear that if U.S. wishes to talk, then we will talk, if they want to fight, then we will fight," Zhang said. "We definitely will take whatever necessary countermeasures to protect our fundamental right, and we also urge the United States to come back to the right track in finding the right solution through the right way."

Zhang served as an assistant minister for foreign affairs in Beijing before beginning his role as U.N. ambassador this week. He spoke to a small group of reporters at U.N. headquarters.

When asked if China's trade relations with the United States could harm cooperation between the countries on dealing with North Korea, Zhang said it would be difficult to predict.

He added: "It will be hard to imagine that on the one hand you are seeking the cooperation from your partner, and on the other hand you are hurting the interests of your partner."

As North Korea's ally and neighbor, China's role in agreeing to and enforcing international sanctions on the country over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs has been crucial.

Since Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met for the first time a year ago, China has signaled that Pyongyang should be rewarded in some way for agreeing to talks on denuclearization.

"You cannot simply ask DPRK to do as much as possible while you maintain the sanctions against DPRK, that definitely is not helpful," he said, using North Korea's official name - the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

He added that "at an appropriate time" sanctions should be eased, but added that China had not made a decision on when that should be. (Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Nick Zieminski)