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Prince William risks diplomatic row with China

The prince will deliver a speech denouncing the illegal wildlife trade at a conference in Washington.

FILE: Britain’s Prince William, Duke of Cambridge. Picture: EPA.

JOHANNESBURG - Prince William risks a diplomatic row with China by fiercely attacking the country's ivory industry.

He's telling a World Bank conference in Washington today that the ignorant craving for supposed cures and trinkets is fuelling the slaughter of elephants and other animals by poachers.

The prince will tell the World Bank Group's International Corruption Hunters Alliance (ICHA) conference in Washington that the illegal wildlife trade is one of the most insidious forms of corruption and criminality in the world today.

He'll point out that the wholesale price of ivory in China has risen from around R58 a kilogram to about R5,430 a kilogram in 25 years which has spurred an increase in poaching.

The prince, who is due to go to China early next year, is saying some endangered species are now literally worth more than their weight in gold.

At the same time, Prince William and Kate arrived on Sunday for their first visit to New York City, a whirlwind trip that includes visits to a Harlem child development centre and the September 11 Monument and Museum.

PRINCE'S VISIT TO CHINA

The prince's visit to China is the first visit to the mainland by a member of the British royal family in almost three decades.

However, he will not be accompanied by his pregnant wife Kate who is due to give birth to the couple's second child in April.

William's trip to China is the first since the queen and her husband Prince Philip paid a visit in 1986, and comes amid continuing protests by pro-democracy activists in the former British colony of Hong Kong.

His father Prince Charles was among dignitaries at the handover of the colony to Chinese rule in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" formula that gave it some autonomy from the mainland and an undated promise of universal suffrage.

Buckingham Palace said William would officially open the Great Festival of Creativity in Shanghai, an event which aims to give more than 500 British businesses a chance to reach potential Chinese partners.

"The Duke will also undertake engagements in Beijing and elsewhere to promote UK-China relations, people-to-people links, and in support of his work to combat the illegal wildlife trade and support wildlife conservation, "the palace said in a statement.

Additional reporting by Reuters.