Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hong Lei's Regular Press Conference on February 17, 2016
Q: The US and ASEAN countries held an informal leaders' meeting in California. The meeting issued a joint statement which included contents like peacefully resolving disputes and maintaining regional and maritime peace and security. What is China's comment?
A: We have pointed out before that we welcome the development of relations between the US and ASEAN. We also believe that their relations should be conducive to positive interaction and cooperation between all parties in the region as well as regional stability and development.
We have noted that some countries tried to use this meeting to hype up the South China Sea issue. But the majority of ASEAN countries disagreed, believing that it would only undermine mutual trust between regional countries, disrupt or even sabotage the efforts made by regional countries to safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea. The Chinese side is willing to make joint efforts with ASEAN countries and continue to play a constructive role in upholding region peace and stability and advancing the peaceful resolution of relevant disputes.
Q: US President Barack Obama told the press after the US-ASEAN informal leaders' meeting that all parties should peacefully resolve the South China Sea dispute through arbitration. He called for a halt to further reclamation, new construction and militarization of disputed areas in the South China Sea, and said the US would continue to sail, fly and operate in areas wherever international law allows. What is China's comment?
A: We have noted relevant reports. In fact, this is not the first time that the US leader made such remarks on the South China Sea issue. The US is not a party concerned in the issue. It should speak and act prudently and create favorable conditions for parties directly concerned to peacefully resolve relevant disputes through consultations and negotiations, instead of exploiting the occasion to hype up the South China Sea issue, sensationalizing tensions, and driving a wedge among regional countries.
Q: The US-ASEAN relationship was elevated to a strategic partnership last November. This time, the US and ASEAN held an informal leaders' meeting. As an important dialogue and strategic partner of ASEAN, what is China's reaction?
A: The Chinese side attaches great importance and stays committed to developing relations with ASEAN. We are glad to see ASEAN conduct amicable cooperation with all dialogue partners and contribute positively to promoting regional peace, stability and development.
China is ASEAN's most active and special dialogue partner. China and ASEAN countries are friendly neighbors linked by mountains, rivers and seas. China established dialogue partnership with ASEAN as early as 1991 and forged strategic partnership in 2003, becoming the first dialogue partner to establish strategic partnership with ASEAN. The two sides have been solidifying political mutual trust and harvesting fruitful results from practical cooperation in various fields. China is the first to establish a Free Trade Area (FTA) with ASEAN and has been ASEAN's largest trading partner for seven years in a row. Last year, the value of bilateral trade reached US$ 472.2 billion. Two-way non-financial direct investment accumulated to US$ 150 billion. More than 18 million visits were exchanged between the two sides. During the China-ASEAN Summit held last November, the two sides successfully signed a protocol to upgrade the FTA and formulated the third five-year action plan to implement bilateral strategic partnership and chart the course for cooperation in the next five years.
This year, which marks the 25th anniversary of the establishment of China-ASEAN dialogue relations and the year of China-ASEAN educational exchanges, is significant for bilateral relations to build on the past and open up the future. The two sides will hold a commemorative summit on the 25th anniversary of the establishment of China-ASEAN dialogue relations this September. We look forward to working with ASEAN to hold a series of commemorative activities, deepen practical cooperation in various fields, and advance China-ASEAN relations to a greater height.
Q: The US side expressed its support for the building of ASEAN Community. What will China do to support the building of ASEAN Community?
A: This year is the first year of ASEAN Community. China is glad to see the achievements of ASEAN integration. We have also noted that development is still the primary task for ASEAN countries which still face the problem of imbalanced development.
As an important cooperation partner for ASEAN, China firmly supports the building of ASEAN Community and stays committed to narrowing development gaps among ASEAN countries and driving common development of the region while promoting China-ASEAN all-around cooperation. At the 17th China-ASEAN Summit held in 2014, Premier Li Keqiang's proposal to set up a Lancang-Mekong River cooperation mechanism was positively received by all sides. Last November, China and five countries along the Mekong River, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, held the first foreign ministers' meeting on Lancang-Mekong River cooperation in Jinghong, Yunan, during which the Lancang-Mekong River cooperation process was officially launched. As agreed by all, the first leaders' meeting on Lancang-Mekong River cooperation will be held in Sanya, Hainan in the latter half of this March, during which leaders of the six countries will get together to paint a blueprint for cooperation. To lay a good groundwork for the leaders' meeting, China and five Mekong River countries will hold a senior diplomatic officials' meeting next Wednesday. We believe that Lancang-Mekong River cooperation will be a helpful supplement to China-ASEAN cooperation and a strong boost to ASEAN Community building and regional integration.
Q: The Huffington Post carried an article saying that the informal leaders' meeting between the US and ASEAN shows that the US regards the region as the hinge of its "pivot to Asia" strategy. The US wants to contain China by cozying up to regional countries. It is a Cold War mentality. Looking back on the warring history between the UK and the US at sea, the US perhaps should let China peacefully rise to a regional power. What is your comment?
A: I have noted this report from the American press. Today's world is witnessing the forging of a community of common interests and common destiny where countries depend upon each other and share together danger and safety, regardless of their geographical locations and sizes. What China and the US need is a new path that benefits not only the two countries but also the whole world, instead of the beaten track where established and rising powers collide. The Pacific Ocean is big enough for China and the US to develop together. Our interaction in the Asia-Pacific region should be guided by the concept of building a new type of major-country relations. That is what we need to stick to so that people of the two countries, in the Asia-Pacific region, and around the world can all benefit.
Q: It is reported that China has deployed surface-to-air missiles in Yongxing Dao. Why does China choose to place military facilities at this time? Some analysts believe that this runs counter to China's commitment to non-militarization of the South China Sea. What is your comment?
A: I am not aware of the specific situation. But I want to point out that the Xisha Islands are China's inherent territory. China is entitled to deploy necessary defense facilities on its own territory and enhance national defense capabilities. It has nothing to do with militarization.
Q: Foreign Minister Wang Yi today proposed to move forward denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula in parallel with transition from armistice to peace. Does that mean replacing the armistice mechanism on the Korean Peninsula with a peace regime? Is China going to pursue this approach under the framework of the Six-Party Talks?
A: Your understanding is correct. As Foreign Minister Wang Yi said, the approach of advancing denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula in parallel with transition from armistice to peace is to replace the armistice mechanism on the Korean Peninsula with a peace regime and deliver long-term stability to Northeast Asia.The purpose is to address all parties' major concerns in a balanced manner, lay down the objectives of dialogues and negotiations, and find a breakthrough to resume talks as soon as possible. We believe that this approach is conducive to fundamentally addressing the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula. China will remain in close communication with all relevant parties of the Six-Party Talks on that.
Q: The statement issued after the US-ASEAN informal leaders' meeting mentioned that all parties are committed to non-militarization. What is your comment?
A: The Chinese side welcomes this joint commitment by the US and ASEAN to non-militarization and hopes that relevant countries can live up to that. Country outside the region shall not show off its military force in the South China Sea nor use force or coercive means to advance its unilateral assertion. Meanwhile, it shall not rope in regional countries to conduct joint military drills or patrols targeting the third party in the South China Sea. China and ASEAN countries have the capability, confidence and wisdom to jointly maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea.
Q: An editorial by the Global Times said that China should contribute its own part to destroying the DPRK's nuclear development capability, in spite of the DPRK's opposition. Does this represent the position of the Chinese government? The editorial also talked about the ROK's possible deployment of the THAAD system, saying that China can take reference from Russia's actions in Eastern Europe and install defensive missiles in Northeast Asia. Do you agree with that?
A: we have been repeating our position on the Korean nuclear issue. Our stance is clear. We stand for denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and oppose the DPRK's nuclear test and satellite launch. We believe that the DPRK's capability to develop nuclear and missile program shall be curbed and we support the UN Security Council in passing new resolutions to achieve that goal. Meanwhile, the current situation renders it more urgent to resolve the Korean nuclear issue through dialogues and negotiations. We urge all sides to place the Korean nuclear issue back to the track of dialogues and negotiations, explore ways to advance denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula in tandem with transition from armistice to peace, and stay committed to long-term stability of the Korean Peninsula.
The deployment of the THAAD system on the Korean Peninsula will not help ameliorate tensions and safeguard regional peace and stability. It will undermine China's strategic security interests. We firmly oppose that. It is hoped that the relevant side can drop this plan.
Q: On February 16, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) said in a statement that he is concerned about the recent so-called arrests of lawyers, harassment and intimidation of government critics and workers of non-governmental organizations in China and he urges China to release human rights lawyers immediately and without conditions. What is China's comment?
A: The UNHCHR launched groundless accusations against China's domestic affairs. It is unjust and unprofessional. The Chinese government firmly opposes and will not accept that.
China is a law-based country. Everyone is equal before the law. Whoever violates the law will be punished accordingly. The Chinese side hopes that the UNHCHR can view the development of China's human rights cause in an all-round, just and objective way and respect China's judicial sovereignty.
Q: Former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali passed away in Egypt. What is China's comment?
A: The Chinese side mourns the passing of Former UN Secretary-General Ghali and expresses sincere sympathy to his family, the Egyptian government and people.
Mr. Ghali was a world-renowned statesman and diplomat. During his tenure as the UN Secretary-General, he made indelible contributions to resolving conflicts and hotspot issues, improving the well-being of mankind and solidifying the UN's influence with his accomplished diplomatic skills and full enthusiasm. Mr. Ghali was an old friend of the Chinese people. He had been committed to developing China-Egypt relations and enhancing China-UN cooperation. In January, 2016, Mr. Ghali was awarded for his outstanding contribution to the Sino-Arab friendship by the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries. The Chinese government and people will forever remember what Mr. Ghali had done for advancing the UN cause, for enhancing China-UN cooperation, and for promoting China-Egypt friendship.