China FO Presser

China FO Press Briefing on Jan 16, 2023

12 Min
China FO Press Briefing on Jan 16, 2023

The Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin held a presser on January 16, 2023. Some excerpts

Beijing Daily: We noted that Foreign Minister Qin Gang concluded his visit to Angola and Benin last week. Could you share more about the visit?

Wang Wenbin: This year marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Angola. Just last month, China and Benin celebrated the 50th anniversary of the resumption of diplomatic relations. In that context, Foreign Minister Qin Gang’s visit to Angola and Benin has highlighted the traditional friendship and close connections between China and these two countries.

During the visit, Angolan President João Lourenço and Beninese President Patrice Talon met with Foreign Minister Qin respectively. They both applauded China’s development path and achievements and thanked China for its long-standing support and help. They look forward to deepening and expanding practical cooperation with China and accelerating national development and revitalization, and they stand ready to continue to be a steadfast and reliable friend of China and work with China to uphold the principle of non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs and safeguard international fairness and justice.

Foreign Minister Qin expressed appreciation for the two countries’ understanding and support on issues that bear on China’s core interests and major concerns. He said that China will, as always, support the two countries in opposing external interference, choosing development paths independently, and safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests, and that China will continue to unite and work with Angola, Benin and other African countries to achieve common development in the spirit of China-Africa friendship and cooperation and in line with the principles of sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith, and the commitment to the greater good and shared interests.

During the visit, Foreign Minister Qin also held talks with Angolan Foreign Minister Téte António and Beninese Foreign Minister Aurelien Agbenonci respectively, and signed cooperation documents between China and Benin on people-to-people and cultural exchanges and others.?

Foreign Minister Qin’s visit is a continuation of the 33-year fine tradition of Chinese diplomacy, whereby Chinese foreign ministers have made Africa the destination of their first overseas visits each year. His visit reflected the deep friendship between China and Africa, and witnessed the ever-growing China-Africa friendly cooperation. China’s action shows it has been true to African friends. We always deliver for Africa as its partner for cooperation, and hold dear our abiding friendship with Africa. As the new year begins, there is much to look forward to. It is our belief that guided by the principles of sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith and a commitment to the greater good and shared interests, the future augurs well for China-Africa relations, and holds great promise for the China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era.

AFP: Vice Premier Liu He will represent China at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Do you have any details on his trip? Can you confirm he will hold talks with the US Trade Representative Katherine Tai?

Wang Wenbin: We have put out the announcement that Vice Premier Liu He will attend the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2023 and visit Switzerland. As the trip progresses, we will share more details with you. Please check back for the updates.

Let me also add that the economic and trade teams of China and the US stay in regular communication. We will keep you posted if anything comes up.

Shenzhen TV: Foreign Minister Qin Gang also visited Egypt and the League of Arab States Headquarters during his trip to Africa. Could you share more on this?

Wang Wenbin: Not long ago, President Xi Jinping attended the first China-Arab States Summit, which guided the China-Arab relations into a new era of all-round, deepened progress. On January 15, Foreign Minister Qin Gang visited Egypt and the League of Arab States Headquarters. This is an important action for delivering on the outcomes of the China-Arab States Summit. It demonstrates China’s strong determination to make every effort with the Arab world to build a China-Arab community with a shared future in the new era.

During the visit, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi met with Foreign Minister Qin, and Foreign Minister Qin also held talks with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. The two sides had in-depth exchanges of views on following through on the important common understandings between the two heads of state, and reached extensive common understandings on bilateral relations and regional and international issues of common interest.

The two sides agreed that China and Egypt enjoy solid strategic mutual trust, and should continue to firmly support each other on issues that bear on each other’s core interests and major concerns. China appreciates Egypt’s valuable support on issues that bear on China’s core interests, including affairs related to Taiwan and Xinjiang. China firmly supports Egypt in following a development path that suits its own national conditions, and in safeguarding its sovereignty and security and realizing development and revitalization.

The two sides agreed that China-Egypt cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative has been productive and full of potential. China stands ready to further synergize its development strategies with Egypt’s, work together to implement the Global Development Initiative, jointly advance the construction of major projects, import more quality products from Egypt, and encourage more Chinese companies to invest and do business in Egypt, so as to achieve mutually-beneficial results at a higher level.

The two sides agreed that China and Egypt, with profound civilizations, need to continue expanding cultural and people-to-people exchanges, actively encourage exchanges between the think-tanks, youth and media organizations of the two countries, and realize people-to-people connectivity at a deeper level. China appreciates Egypt’s decision to welcome Chinese tourists. We believe that in the near future, the number of Chinese tourists and flights to Egypt will return to or even surpass the pre-pandemic level.

The two sides agreed that China and Egypt, with similar views and positions on regional and international issues, need to coordinate and work more closely together to advance the political settlement of regional hotspot issues, uphold the basic norms in international relations, safeguard the principle of non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs and protect the common interests of developing countries.

During his visit to Egypt, Foreign Minister Qin held talks with Secretary-General of the League of Arab States (LAS) Ahmed Aboul Gheit. The two sides agreed to deliver on the outcomes of the China-Arab States Summit and accelerate the implementation of the eight major cooperation initiatives, so as to bring more benefits to the peoples of both sides. Foreign Minister Qin noted that China firmly supports Arab states in working in solidarity to address security issues in the region, supports the Arab people in exploring their own development paths independently, and supports the LAS in playing a bigger role in promoting peace and stability in the Middle East.

Secretary-General Gheit expressed appreciation to China for steadfastly upholding justice in the world, supporting the development of Arab states and the unity of the LAS, and providing invaluable help to Arab countries in the successful fight against COVID-19. He noted that he looks forward to deeper Arab-China cooperation in all areas and that more Chinese citizens are welcome to visit Egypt and other Arab countries for sightseeing or carrying out economic and trade cooperation.

During the visit, Foreign Minister Qin pointed out that the Palestinian question is at the heart of the Middle East issue and matters to the region’s peace and stability. The heightening Israeli-Palestinian situation is fundamentally caused by the stagnation in Israel-Palestine peace talks and the protracted delay in the implementation of the two-state solution. The international community needs to act with a stronger sense of urgency, keep the Palestinian issue high on the international agenda, push for the resumption of peace talks between Palestine and Israel, and properly address Jerusalem’s final status and other issues, so as to bring about the just and lasting settlement of the Palestinian issue on the basis of the two-state solution at an early date. Major countries with influence need to step up to their responsibility on this.

Bloomberg: The World Health Organization has expressed hopes for China to share more detailed information on its coronavirus situation. That was even after China provided the death toll figures over the weekend. What is the foreign ministry’s response to this??

Wang Wenbin: On January 14, Ma Xiaowei, minister of China’s National Health Commission (NHC) spoke to WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on the phone to exchange views mainly on the COVID-19 situation in China. The WHO Secretariat and Director-General Tedros spoke highly of the Chinese government’s efforts to cope with the COVID-19 epidemic and thanked China for maintaining long-term technical exchanges and sharing epidemiological information and data with WHO. The two sides agreed to continue to strengthen technical exchanges and cooperation on epidemiological response and work together to protect global health security.

China attaches great importance to its cooperation and ties with WHO. We actively support the organization’s leading coordinating role in the global fight against the pandemic, and maintain close exchange with the WHO Secretariat and Director-General Tedros. China has been sharing information with WHO and other countries since COVID-19 began. We reported the infections to WHO at the earliest opportunity. China is the first country to identify the pathogen and share the genome sequence, and established a technical exchange mechanism with WHO. Over the past month or so alone, the Chinese side has had technical exchanges five times and one phone conversation with WHO. China’s contribution to the global fight against COVID has been recognized by WHO and widely among the members of the international community.

We will continue to support WHO’s role in uniting and rallying the international community to fight the pandemic and share information with WHO and the rest of the international community in a timely, open and transparent manner in accordance with the law to jointly tackle the COVID challenge. We hope all sides will view these issues with a science-based and objective attitude and respect and support China’s COVID response so that we can together make our due contribution to global solidarity against the pandemic.

Global Times: A joint statement was released following the recent US-Japan Security Consultative Committee (“2+2”), in which the two sides “shared their continuing concerns regarding China’s ongoing and accelerating expansion of its nuclear arsenal”. What’s China’s comment?

Wang Wenbin: We have noted relevant reports. The US-Japan joint statement contains manipulated and misleading narratives aimed at justifying military build-up by propagating and hyping up the so-called “nuclear threat from China”. We firmly reject this and have made serious démarches.

China is firmly committed to a defensive nuclear strategy. We have honored our pledge to “no first use” of nuclear weapons at any time and under any circumstances and unconditionally not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states or nuclear-weapon-free zones. China is the only one among the five nuclear weapon states to have made these pledges. We have always kept our nuclear capabilities at the minimum level required by national security. For any country, as long as they do not use nuclear weapons against China, they have nothing to worry about being threatened by China’s nuclear weapons. This is the most meaningful transparency a country can provide.

In fact, it is the negative developments in the US and Japan regarding nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation that call for vigilance from the international community. The US already has the largest and most advanced nuclear arsenal in the world but still has invested over a trillion dollars to upgrade its nuclear triad. It has been developing low-yield nuclear weapons, lowering the threshold for using nuclear weapons, and forming a Cold-War style bloc by selling nuclear-powered submarines and strengthening the “nuclear umbrella”. Japan, as a non-nuclear-weapon state party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), is supposed to fulfill its international obligations on non-proliferation. The reality, however, is that Japan has been sitting comfortably under the US’s “nuclear umbrella” and even opposing and obstructing efforts to get the US to relinquish its policy of first use of nuclear weapons. The international community has long questioned and expressed concerns over this.

We urge the US and Japan to abandon the Cold-War mentality and bloc confrontation, fulfill their nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation obligations in good faith, and step up to their role in upholding regional and international peace and stability.

Reuters: According to a Kyodo news report, China has issued a small number of visas for some diplomatic, public and emergency business travelers. My question is whether there has been any recent changes in this visa policy as this report from Kyodo news suggests?

Wang Wenbin: We believe that for all countries, COVID response measures should be science-based and proportionate. They should not affect normal cross-border travel and people-to-people exchange and cooperation, should not be discriminatory, and should not be used as a pretext for political manipulation.

We hope that relevant countries will shift to a science-based approach and, in the spirit of mutual respect, lift the discriminatory restrictions against Chinese citizens as soon as possible and work with China towards restoring normal cross-border travel and people-to-people exchange and cooperation.

The Paper: According to reports, the Japanese government on January 13 said they will start releasing treated nuclear-contaminated water from the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in the spring or summer. The National Fisheries Cooperative Federation of Japan once again expressed their opposition in a statement. We also noted that the ROK foreign ministry said the same day that Japan must treat contaminated water safely and in accordance with international laws and standards in an objective and science-based manner. Do you have any comment?

Wang Wenbin: Over the past two years, the international community has strongly questioned and opposed the unilateral, wrong decision of the Japanese government to discharge the nuclear-contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the sea, and expressed grave concern over its impact on the marine environment and public health. As a matter of fact, the majority of the Japanese public are also opposed to such irresponsible practice. According to a survey, 55 percent of the Japanese surveyed expressed opposition to the government’s plan to release treated contaminated water into the sea.?

Regrettably, Japan has yet to take seriously and address these concerns. It still hasn’t offered full and convincing explanation on issues like the legitimacy of the discharge plan, the reliability of data on the nuclear-contaminated water, the efficacy of the treatment system or the uncertainty of environmental impact. Despite having made three field trips to Japan, the IAEA Task Force is yet to reach a conclusion on the safety of the disposal plan, and has asked for multiple clarifications and improvements from the Japanese side. Even so, Japan has greenlighted its ocean discharge plan and forcibly proceeded with the construction of needed facilities. This is highly irresponsible.

We once again urge the Japanese side to take seriously the legitimate concerns of all parties, dispose of the nuclear-contaminated water in a science-based, open, transparent and safe manner, place itself under the strict monitoring of the IAEA and take credible steps to protect the marine environment and the health rights and interests of all those concerned. Japan must not start discharging the nuclear-contaminated water into the ocean before having full consultation with neighboring countries and other stakeholders as well as relevant international agencies.?

CCTV: According to reports, a Nepalese passenger plane carrying 68 passengers and 4 crew members from Kathmandu to Pokhara crashed and caught fire on Wednesday, local time. So far, no survivors have been found. Will China send condolences to Nepal?

Wang Wenbin: This tragic incident is deeply saddening. At this moment of grief, as Nepal’s close neighbor and long-standing true friend, China offers its thoughts to the people of Nepal. We mourn for the victims of the crash and offer our heartfelt sympathy to the families who have lost loved ones.

Reuters: Just a follow-up on my earlier question. I wanted to ask whether China has indeed issued a small number of visas for some diplomatic, public and emergency business travelers since it announced a visa suspension?

Wang Wenbin: I have shared China’s position on this. We reiterate our hope that relevant countries will lift the discriminatory restrictions against China as soon as possible and work with China towards restoring normal cross-border travel and people-to-people exchange and cooperation.

Bloomberg: Sri Lanka’s debt restructuring talks are now at a crucial stage. Can we ask, did Vice Minister Chen Zhou engage in debt talks during his visit to Sri Lanka??

Wang Wenbin: As we have learned, Vice Minister Chen Zhou of the International Department of the CPC Central Committee recently led a CPC delegation to Sri Lanka and some other countries. For more on the visit, I refer you to the competent authorities.

China has been closely following the difficulties and challenges facing Sri Lanka and providing assistance for its economic and social development to the best of our capabilities. As to Sri Lanka’s debt to the Chinese side, China supports relevant financial institutions in having consultations with Sri Lanka to seek a proper settlement. China stands ready to work with relevant countries and international financial institutions and continue to play a positive role in helping Sri Lanka navigate the situation, easing its debt burden and helping it achieve sustainable development. In the meantime, we hope and believe that Sri Lanka will work in the same direction and make independent efforts to uphold the legitimate rights and interests of foreign investment and financing partners, and maintain stability and credibility of its investment and financing environment.

CCTV: US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida held talks in Washington D.C. on January 13 and released a joint statement, which claims that the Indo-Pacific faces growing challenges including from actions inconsistent with the rules-based international order by China. They also stressed the commitment to strengthening the US-Japan alliance and the US’s commitment to Japan’s defense and criticized China on issues relating to the East China Sea and Taiwan. What’s China’s response?

Wang Wenbin: The ugly playbook jointly used by Japan and the US to tarnish China’s image, interfere in China’s internal affairs and suppress China’s development is packed with danger and hypocrisy. We firmly reject it and have conveyed strong démarches.

Japan’s militarist past, marked by devastating wars of aggression and brutal crimes against humanity, brought untold suffering on this region and beyond. Instead of drawing serious lessons from its past, Japan has displayed a dangerous tendency of rearming itself, with sharp rises in its annual defense spending for the 11th year running and constant readjustment of its defense policy aimed at military breakthrough. To justify its aggressive military build-up, Japan has been falsely hyping up regional tensions. It is even seeking to bring NATO into the Asia-Pacific. All of this makes people wonder whether Japan is tearing itself away from post-war peaceful development and fear the growing danger of history repeating itself. Our message for Japan: anyone seeking to jeopardize and risk the security and stability in the Asia-Pacific will be rejected and pushed back by countries across the region.

The US preaches the so-called “rules-based order”, but is second to none when it comes to undermining the international rules and order. From unwarranted invasion of other countries to arbitrary unilateral sanctions, from owing large arrears to the UN’s regular budget to deliberately impeding the appointment of new judges to the WTO’s Appellate Body, from coercive diplomacy to piecing together exclusionary blocs, from muscle-flexing in the Asia-Pacific by deploying warships and military aircraft to opening Pandora’s box on nuclear proliferation, facts prove time and again that the US does not really care about rules or order. It cares about only one thing – the perpetuation of US hegemony. Any existing rule that stands in the way of US interests will be ignored, replaced or even thrown out of the window, even if it was proposed and written by the US itself.

It must be pointed out that China will stay firmly committed to the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics. No country or force can hold back China’s development. We will do what is necessary to resolutely defend our sovereignty, security and development interests.

We call on the US and Japan to step out of the Cold-War mentality, quit the obsession with containing and suppressing China, stop dangerously ramping up military build-up and propagating chaos in the world and return to the right path of peace, friendship and cooperation.?