A New Jersey importer has asked the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for help in recalling about 450,000 light-truck tires made in China after a fatal car accident, lawyers said.

The tires, made by Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co., have an insufficient or missing gum strip, a safety feature that helps prevent them from separating, the lawyers and a consumers' group said in a statement. The group, Safety Research & Strategies, is urging retailers and wholesalers to stop selling the tires.

The New Jersey importer, Foreign Tire Sales, has told U.S. safety officials the tires were sold under the names Westlake, Telluride Compass and YKS, according to lawyers representing families of people involved in the fatal car accident blamed on the tires.

U.S. traffic safety officials were not immediately available for comment; nor was Foreign Tire Sales in Union, New Jersey.

According to The New York Times, the NHTSA wants a full tire recall by Foreign Tire Sales and considers the recall to be the company's ultimate responsibility. Hangzhou Zhongce sold tires to at least six other U.S. distributors, according to the Times.

Foreign Tire Sales last month filed a breach of contract suit against Hangzhou, court documents show.

Xu Youming, head of Hangzhou's legal department, confirmed FTS had sued his company in the United States, but declined to elaborate on the suit, which he said was different from the fatal-accident suit mentioned by The New York Times. He said the latter suit involved several companies including General Motors Corp.

GM officials were not immediately available to comment.

Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co. has a dispute with FTS over a previously signed contract, but the Chinese company's products have no quality problem, he said. FTS is only one of our distributors in America, he said. If our products have a quality problem, how come the other distributors haven't sued us?

Xu said his company planned to release a written statement on Wednesday, and was considering launching a countersuit against FTS in China. He declined to comment further.