|Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang's Regular Press Conference on April 13, 2017|
As agreed by the two sides, on April 19, State Councilor Yang Jiechi and Federica Mogherini, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, will co-host the seventh China-EU High-level Strategic Dialogue in Beijing.
Q: On April 12, China abstained from the vote at the UN Security Council on the draft resolution about the issue of chemical weapons in Syria. Can you explain why?
A: It is a clear and consistent position of China that we oppose the use of chemical weapons by any country, organization or person for any purpose and under any circumstance. China condemns the suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria. We believe that independent and comprehensive investigations should be carried out by the OPCW and the relevant UN agencies, so as to reach, on the basis of solid evidence, a conclusion which can stand the test of history and facts.
We've also said on many occasions that the unity of the UN Security Council is crucial to the settlement of the Syrian issue. During the consultation of this draft resolution, China maintained close contact with relevant parties and worked relentlessly for consensus at the Security Council. We regret that no consensus was achieved in the end.
Ambassador Liu Jieyi, Permanent Representative of China to the UN, elaborated China's position in his statement after the vote. The voted draft contains elements that China supports, namely the condemnation of the use of chemical weapons in Syria and requirement for investigation over this case. However, there are also other elements that can be revised for good reason in order to reach consensus. Therefore, China abstained from the vote.
A political settlement is the only right way to resolve the Syrian crisis. We hope that the international community can preserve the hard-won positive momentum of the process of a political settlement of the Syrian issue, continue to support the UN in serving as the main channel for mediation, and work on relevant parties in Syria to find a political settlement acceptable to all through peace talks in Geneva.
Q: Syrian Ambassador to the UN Bashar Jaafari said, during the Security Council debate on the issue of chemical weapons in Syria, that Syria calls for investigations into the chemical weapons attack by the OPWC because Syria also wants to find out the real perpetrator. What's China's comment on this?
A: We are also aware of the remarks by Ambassador Jaafari.
I want to reiterate that China strongly condemns the suspected chemical weapons attack that caused mass civilian casualties in Syria. We firmly oppose the use of chemical weapons by any country, organization or person for any purpose and under any circumstance. China supports the OPCW and the relevant UN agencies in carrying out independent and comprehensive investigations into it and reaching a conclusion which can stand the test of history and facts. And on the basis of such a conclusion, the perpetrator should be brought to justice.
We believe the priority now is to provide constructive support to relevant investigations, prevent the situation from deteriorating, and preserve the hard-won process of political settlement of the Syrian issue. That's exactly what responsible countries should do for the Syrian people and for world and regional peace and stability.
Q: China has been urging all sides to show restraint, has China received any assurances either from the US administration or from the DPRK government that they will show restraint, in other words, not conducting military strike, not conducting nuclear test or anything of that nature?
A: You are right. During our engagement with all relevant parties over the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula and the situation on the Peninsula, we have called on all parties to exercise restraint, take actions to deescalate the tension and bring parties back to the negotiating table instead of being provocative and adding fuel to the flame. What I can tell you is that all parties are very clear about China's position, and China has stayed in communication with them.
Q: First, President Trump said, at the press availability yesterday, that China has taken concrete measures to address the Korean nuclear issue, including refusing the shipment of coal from the DPRK to China. He called it a huge step by China and said he knew that more steps would follow. Can you confirm that? Did he get this information from his phone call with President Xi? Second, according to the spokesperson of the General Administration of Customs, China has suspended the import of coal from the DPRK since February 18. However, bilateral trade volume still recorded growth by a fairly large margin for the first three months of this year. So there's still large room for China to impose economic pressure on the DPRK to resolve the nuclear issue. What's China's comment on this?
A: First, China and the US have maintained close communication on the situation on the Korean Peninsula, the nuclear issue and measures that all parties should take to address this issue. At the Mar-a-Lago meeting, the two leaders had extended and in-depth conversation. They've had a better understanding of each other's positions.
As for the measures taken by China, in fact, since the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula emerged and not just for a day or two, China has taken measures in the following two aspects: first, we've been working relentlessly to achieve denuclearization of the Peninsula, peace and stability on the Peninsula and a proper settlement of the issue through dialogue and consultation; second, as a member of the UN and its Security Council, we've faithfully performed our international responsibilities, including strictly implementing UN Security Council resolutions in their entirety. These are part of China's consistent policy, not something fresh for today.
As for the second question, yesterday, the official of the General Administration of Customs gave his reply. He said firmly that China had stopped importing coal from the DPRK since February 18 this year, a resolute measure introduced with a notice jointly issued by the Ministry of Commerce and the General Administration of Customs, which is part of our implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions. As for the rise and fall of the trade volume between China and the DPRK within a certain period of time, as you know, China and the DPRK are neighbors with traditional friendly ties, including normal trade activities. As long as it is in line with the requirement of UN Security Council resolutions, normal relations, including trade relations, between China and the DPRK are not to be blamed.
Q: According to Russian media reports, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dvorkovich said on April 12 that President Xi Jinping is going to visit Russia in early July. Can you confirm that? Russian Ambassador to China Andrey Denisov said, during an interview yesterday, that Russia-China relationship is now at an all-time high. What's your response? How does China comment on the current China-Russia relations?
A: There are a range of mechanisms for high-level visits between China and Russia, including the annual mutual visits mechanism between the two heads of state, under which, the two leaders will continue to have close exchanges this year to jointly chart the course for the development of bilateral relations and cooperation across the board.
We also noted the comment by Ambassador Denisov yesterday. And we completely agree with him on his positive comment about China-Russia relations. This year, the China-Russia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership for Coordination has maintained an even more positive momentum of development at a high level, with close high-level exchanges, and a group of new outcomes achieved in cooperation over trade, investment, energy and culture and at the sub-national level. As permanent members of the UN Security Council, China and Russia have maintained close communication and coordination on international and regional hotspots, jointly serving as the stabilizer for international and regional peace and security. The external environment, however it may change, will not affect our determination in developing and deepening the China-Russia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership for Coordination.
Q: It is reported that President Duterte taken back his words of landing and raising flag on an island of the Nansha Islands. He said that China told him it would cause troubles if all relevant countries choose to raise flags in the South China Sea. He also mentioned that he decided not to go because he valued friendship with China. What's China's comment on this?
A: As you can see, the situation in the South China Sea has seen continued progress. China-Philippines relations also enjoy fast and sound growth. We are glad that the Philippines choose to work with China to properly manage differences and advance cooperation, so as to deliver more benefit to our two peoples. A good relationship between China and the Philippines is conducive to regional peace, stability and prosperity.
Q: President Trump said in an interview that he had informed President Xi that if President Xi solved the DPRK problem, President Trump was more than prepared to give China a good deal on trade. How does China interpret that? What specifics would China expect on a really good trade deal?
A: If I understand right, a senior official of the US government has already made clarification on that. I believe that the US side, President Trump included, knows well China's positions on these two issues.
Q: According to the ROK media, Chinese government's Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Affairs Wu Dawei is planning to visit the DPRK tomorrow. Can you confirm that? What is the purpose of his visit?
A: China and the DPRK have always had normal exchanges. I have no information on what you just asked.
Q: President Trump said during a TV interview aired yesterday that he told President Xi about the Syrian missile strike at the Mar-a-Lago dinner, and that President Xi responded that he was OK with the attack. Can you share any more details about that conversation?
A: The spokesperson of the Chinese delegation has already provided information on that. It was true that the two presidents talked about the Syrian issue during their meeting. President Xi Jinping was explicit about China's position on this issue, which can be summarized in three points. First, the Chinese side has been firmly opposed to the use of chemical weapons by any country, organization or individual under any circumstance and for any purpose. Second, we believe that the pressing task now is to prevent the situation from worsening. Third, we maintain that all parties should stay committed to upholding and promoting the political settlement of the Syrian issue. These, as we have said, are what President Xi Jinping told President Trump during their meeting.
As for our opposition to the use or threat of force, the US is clear about that consistent position of us as well.
Q: President Trump has been quoted as saying that China is not a currency manipulator and would not be declaring China as such. Do you have a reaction to that?
A: That is a fact that China is not a currency manipulator.
China's position on the issue of RMB exchange rate is consistent and clear-cut. While pressing ahead with the reform of RMB exchange rate regime, we will maintain the exchange rate basically stable at an adaptive and equilibrium level. We do not intend to spur export growth through competitive depreciation, and the RMB has no basis for continuous depreciation. Following the principle of equality and mutual benefit, we will further expand practical cooperation with the US and push for more balanced growth of our trade relations.
During their meeting at Mar-a-Lago, the two presidents spent quite some time discussing trade relations and reached important consensus. They agreed to work jointly to expand practical cooperation in different fields and properly manage differences.
Q: Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov said to reporters, after his meeting with US State Secretary Tillerson, that despite differences on the issue of the DPRK, both sides agreed that political settlement is the only viable way in this case. What's China's comment on this?
A: We also noted the remarks by Foreign Minister Lavrov that both the US and Russia believe in a political settlement of the Korean nuclear issue. In fact, it is a consistent position of China that denuclearization should be realized peacefully through dialogue and consultation while peace and stability should be preserved on the Korean Peninsula. We hope that all sides can bear in mind this overall principle and work together toward this general direction.
Q: We are recently told by the US official that the US may be considering new economic sanctions for the DPRK, including some which may target Chinese companies and banks. Does China have any response?
A: We have been saying these days that the situation on the Korean Peninsula has already been rather complex and sensitive. We hope that all relevant parties will act in a responsible manner, and avoid provoking each other or adding fuel to the fire.
With regard to unilateral sanctions, the Chinese side has all along disapproved of unilateral sanctions in international affairs. We, in particular, oppose the damage caused by these unilateral sanctions to China's interests.
Q: According to the Wall Street Journal, President Trump asked President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago whether he wanted to make a great deal. Putting aside the question whether China accepts the comparison of China-US cooperation to a deal, let's just talk about what kind of deal does China expect to make on the issue of the DPRK?
A: We cannot comment on each and every word of media reports. As for the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula and the situation there, first, there was in-depth discussion between Chinese and US presidents on that. Second, the Chinese side makes decisions on its positions and policies concerning major international issues in light of the merits of the issues.
Q: The White House spokesperson described China's abstention as a big victory for the US president. How do you comment on that?
A: As I just told the NPR journalist, the Chinese side makes decisions on its positions and policies concerning major international issues in light of the merits of the issues.
Q: There have been some reports about oil sanctions being one possible choice for China. Is this a form of sanction that China would consider, should the UN bring in new forms of sanctions against the DPRK?
A: After all these years, we can see clearly that sanctions alone are not effective in resolving the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula. If we take a look back at the whole course of the issue, we will find that every time the DPRK decided to give up its nuclear and missile programs and embark on denuclearization, it was in the process of the Six-Party Talks. On the contrary, it was during the suspension of the talks and the enforcement of nothing else but sanctions that the DPRK gradually built up its nuclear strength. We don't know whether there is a better way out, but practices have proven that talks may help resolve the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula. We strongly hope that all parties concerned will not pin all their hopes on sanctions only.