Senior Apple staff will visit China to get into top level negotiations with China Unicom to discuss launch of the product in the country, local Chinese media reports this morning claim.

"Senior officials from Apple Inc are to visit China this week, and they haven’t arrived in Beijing yet," a source told "Apple’s branch company in China are ready for the reception, and informed China Unicom about this earlier.”

Executives from both firms are likely to discuss the launch strategy for the iPhone in China, with Apple officials also likely to meet with the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

An International Business Times report informs a China Unicom team visited Apple HQ in March to negotiate terms for iPhone distribution. Apple’s away to China team is expected to be led by Greg Joswiak, Apple’s vice president of iPod and iPhone Product Marketing.

China is a prize market, with over one billion mobile phone in use. However, at this point – while a Chinese model iPhone has been approved – China Unicom will not offer Apple a share of iPhone-generated revenue. This final point has been a sticking point against inking the deal until now. Negotiations have been proceeding for months.

Having achieved regulatory approval, iPhones for China are thought to be rolling of the production lines even now.

Meanwhile, in the UK, signs continue to emerge suggesting Apple’s exclusive deal with O2 is under threat. T-Mobile has begun flouting this deal by offering limited numbers of iPhone 3G’s to customers threatening to defect to O2 for the device.

T-Mobile has refused comment on this, but recent reports have claimed Apple may be preparing to allow sales of iPhone 3G’s through other networks, while leaving O2 as exclusive provider of the new iPhone 3GS model.

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