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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson's Press Conference on 8 January 2004

Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Kong Quan held a regular press conference on the afternoon of 8 January 2004.

Kong Quan: Good afternoon.  Let me begin with a piece of information for you.

At the invitation of Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, Foreign Minister Luvsangiin Erdenechuluun of Mongolia will pay an official visit to China from January 14th to 20th 2004.  During his visit, he will be invited to attend the inaugural ceremony of the Secretariat of Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

Now I am ready to answer your questions.

Q: There are reports in American media saying that China does not believe North Korea has any enriched uranium programs.  Could you confirm this?

A: As far as I know, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokespersons have repeatedly introduced to you our views, and I would not mind saying it again since you have asked.  There are many a saying about DPRK's nuclear capabilities and programs with varying contents.  China does not have any information for this and I believe this is more or less the same with other relevant parties.

Recently Ms Fu Ying of the Department of Asian Affairs of the Chinese Foreign Ministry paid a working visit to the ROK.  During her visit, Ms Fu Ying exchanged views with the Korean and Japanese sides on ways to settle the North Korean nuclear question.  We are of the view that the specific scope and content of the settlement of the question should be clarified and dealt with through direct dialogues at the next round of six-party talks.  We have stated our position on this question on many occasions, which is, the Korean Peninsular should be totally nuclear-free, and that reasonable security concerns of the DPRK should be addressed.  And of course the settlement of the question should be thorough as this facilitates peace and stability on the Korean Peninsular.

Q: According to sources, China has been trying to promote a draft joint statement before the second round of six-party talks.  But it seems the plan has not come out as planned.  What steps will China take to push forward the second round of six-party talks? If everything goes well, when will the second round take place?

A: The international community has been paying close attention to the second round of six-party talks.  In fact, all parties believe that the second round should build on past achievements and be a good one with concrete results.  It was out of this consideration that the Chinese side has been keeping close contact with all the other parties including visiting relevant countries and holding working talks.  We hope that all parties could turn our reached consensus into written documents in this process.  I should say work in this regard has been fruitful and laid a good foundation.

Through careful preparations by the Chinese and all other sides, our work is moving ahead.  Of course, all parties vary in their expectations, views and what needs to be discussed at the second round of talks.  But these differences are decreasing after efforts made recently and the mediation efforts of the Chinese side.  Mutual understanding among the parties, especially of each other's positions, has been enhanced.  That's why I say preparations for the talks have made progress.

The Chinese side is comfortable with the second round taking place at any time.  We are looking forward to an early second round and China has been making vigorous efforts in this regard.

Q: China came under criticism from the international community last year for its handling of SARS.  This year China has taken obviously different measures.  In your opinion, how will the international community see China's dealing with the second wave of SARS?

A: Foreign journalists living in China must have felt that the sudden outbreak of SARS last year has taught China a grave and profound lesson.  But the bright side of the story is that we have improved our systems in many areas in the wake of this struggle.  In SARS control, we have been following plans of the State Council and implementing a series of monitoring, preventative and control measures in accordance with the principles of early discovery, early reporting, early quarantine, and early treatment.  The Chinese people and the international community are confident in China's success in fighting against or controlling the SARS epidemic.  WHO representative also indicated lately that practices in the recent period have been proof to the effectiveness, efficiency and transparency of China's new SARS control mechanism.

You asked about possible comments of the international community on China's SARS control this year.  I believe that on the whole the comments should be positive.  The Chinese Government regards the safety and health of the Chinese people as top priority.  But its concerns are not merely limited to SARS control in China because the disease is a challenge to the whole of mankind.  The Chinese Government has been making utmost efforts in search of effective ways to control SARS and conducting active and effective international cooperation in this regard with gradual progress.  Let us hope that the cooperation between China and other members of the international community could bear results as early as possible, which will be a contribution to efforts of mankind to completely defeat SARS.

You may have noticed some new SARS reports earlier today.  At present China's Ministry of Health has established an authoritative information release system which takes place at 4pm every day.  I have just had a telephone conversation with Spokesperson Mr. Mao Qun'an of the Ministry of Health.  He said he would always be ready to answer calls from our friends from the media.  His telephone number is 68792084, which is, according to Mao, answered any time in the day.  In fact, I tried it myself and the phone was picked up immediately.  Of course, if your questions are in Chinese, you will have even faster responses.  (Laughter in the audience)

Q: Do you think foreign media has been objective in reporting China's  handling of SARS?

A: I have not seen all the reports on China's SARS handling in foreign media so I am not in the position to comment.  But I do believe that, on the efforts by the Chinese Government and people in trying to control SARS, the disease facing all mankind, any objective journalist will give objective and well-balanced reports.  And I believe that our efforts have been successful, which have been the source of our confidence in conquering SARS.
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