British Foreign Minister David Owen today hailed the establishment of U.S. China relations as "overdue" and "much needed."

"I am delighted," Owen said.

In sharp contrast to Conservatives here who see China as a strong and welcome ally against the Soviet Union, Owen underlined that mutual recognition could encourage a global relaxation of tensions.

He said he hoped the United States, Britain and other European nations "will be able to persuade China to develop a dialogue between the Soviet Union and themselves.

"I do not accept that war is inevitable, as the Chinese think, between themselves and the Soviet Union," Oen said. "I think if we help the atmosphere of detente between the Soviet Union and China we will be doing a service to peace and, in that sense, good relations between the United States and China are beneficial."

Owen's view is not shared by military leaders and others on the right here. Last spring, at a dinner in China, Air Marshal Sir Neil Cameron, the chief of staff, spoke to his hosts of their "common enemy." This was a clear reference to the Soviet Union.

The Labor government quickly disassociated itself from Camerons phrase. But Margaret Thatcher, the Conservative Party leader, and others praised the air marshal for what they regarded as his frank realism.

Many here are urging the government to go full speed ahead in arming the Chinese.

Today Conservative member of Parliament Robert Adley said that the government should proceed at once with the sale of Harrier jump jets to China.

Britain was the first Western nation to recognize the Peoples Republic, in 1950.