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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson's Press Conference on January 29,2004

Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhang Qiyue held a regular press conference on the afternoon of 29 January 2004.

Zhang Qiyue: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.   Welcome to the first press conference in the Year of the Monkey.  I hope that you have had a rejoicing, pleasant and harmonious Chinese New Year.  There is no announcement to make and I am now ready to answer your questions.

Q: I have two questions about China-US relations.  As American Deputy Secretary of State Armitage will visit China soon, who will he be seeing and what will come up in his discussions?  Also, the US indicated that now it is not time for the EU to lift its arms embargo imposed on China in 1989.  What are your comments?

A: After China-US consultations, American Deputy Secretary of State Armitage will pay a visit to China from January 29 to 31st when the China-US vice Foreign Ministerial Political Consultation will be held.  The two sides will have in-depth exchange of views on China-US relations and other questions of common interest.  As far as I know, Chinese Vice Foreign Ministers Mr. Dai Bingguo and Mr. Zhou Wenzhong will have separate meetings with Mr. Armitage, and other arrangements are yet to be finalized.

With regard to arms embargo on China, it is in fact a product of the Cold War which undermines further China-EU cooperation in various fields and should thus be lifted completely.  We have noticed that France, Germany and many other EU member states are positive about lifting the EU arms embargo, to which we are appreciative.

Q: According to an article in the British magazine New Scientist, China is the source of bird flu.  Actually the epidemic appeared in China last year but you held it back.  So China should now be responsible for the epidemic.  What are your responses?

A: I have also read about such reports about bird flu.  I believe that pointing China as the source of bird flu is not correct.  Such allegations are groundless, disregarding science, and are therefore irresponsible.

As a highly contagious fowl disease, the highly infectious bird flu has been a problem for the whole world and also the topic of interest and research for Chinese and foreign scientists.  Mankind has been struggling against the disease for over a century.  The source, ways and channels of spreading of the bird flu are related to epidemiological rules and can only be determined by enormous experiment and research.  But so far no evidence has emerged to back this up.  According to what I know, WHO officials have stated that it is still premature to come to such conclusions.  I hope all of us could see this epidemic with a scientific attitude.

Q: Why doesn’t the Ministry of Agriculture hold press conferences to introduce to the international community China’s position on this question?  What are the possibilities the Chinese side sees for the second round of six-party talks in February?  Will vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi continue to be the chair?  As Japan and France competes for the ITER project, does China tend to favor France?

A: For your question about special press conferences for bird flu, I could forward your request to competent authorities.  But I want to emphasize that after the National Bird Flu Reference Laboratory finally confirmed a case of highly infectious bird flu, relevant Chinese departments immediately released the information to the public and informed the WHO, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and other relevant organizations.  Officials and experts concerned in the Ministry of Agriculture have also given several interviews.  These show that the channels of epidemic information release are smooth.

As for the six-party talks in February, all parties are now busy preparing for it so that the talks could be held as soon as possible.  The Chinese side has hoped that the talks could take place as early as possible and been vigorously preparing for it.  But the dates are yet to be set.  I presume that when the second round does take place, Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi will chair the meetings as China’s vice foreign minister in charge of Asian affairs.

Now the third question.  As you have said, both France and Japan hope to be chosen as the site for the project.  After careful studies and comparing the conditions in both countries, China believes that the French site is better than Japan’s in geological terms and has therefore expressed support for France.  Of course, we hope that all parties could have a consulted settlement as soon as possible.

Q: Infectious diseases are borderless.  WHO officials recently told me that it is highly possible for bird flu to spread to western countries by birds and human travel.  SARS spread to Canada in the end.  What are the measures China has taken to prevent bird flu from spreading to other countries by planes?  Have there been new cases recently?

A: I do understand your concern about this question as you are responsible for reporting what China has done to control bird flu.  For my part, I will try my best to tell you what I know.  But at present I do not have any latest information.  Once new cases are found, China’s Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Health and other competent authorities will keep the public informed.

According to my information, the Chinese Government has taken the following preventative measures.  Firstly, comprehensive deployment of anti-epidemic measures is in place.  Secondly, epidemic confirmation and report procedures have been clarified in the regions and departments.  A strict epidemic report system has been in place since January 19th, requiring timely discovery, report, control, sterilizing and alert of the epidemic.  This practice stems from what we have learnt during the SARS epidemic last year and is helpful to preventing the spread of bird flu.  Thirdly, epidemic monitoring and border ports quarantine have been strengthened.  China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, General Administration of Customs, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Health have issued notices to all Chinese border ports requiring strict inspection of fowls imported from infected regions.  To date fowls and related products from eight countries are forbidden to enter into China.  Fourthly, vaccine reserves and production have been organized.  Fifthly, supervision and inspection have been strengthened.  From January on, the Ministry of Agriculture has sent nine inspection teams to relevant regions to supervise their anti-epidemic work.  Sixthly, institutional build-up has been enhanced.  Relevant laws and regulations are further improved, including the regulations of emergent response to sudden outbreak of major veterinary epidemics, the precautionary measures in emergent response to the prevention and control of highly infectious bird flu, and the measures for the handling of veterinary epidemic.  These have enabled our epidemic prevention and control to have laws to rely on.  Seventhly, communication and cooperation with neighboring countries have been enhanced.  Vice Minister of Agriculture Mr. Qi Jingfa led a delegation to Bangkok yesterday for an emergency meeting on how to prevent and control bird flu.  In the meantime, relevant Chinese departments have also kept close contacts with the WHO and UN Food and Agriculture Organization which have pledged necessary cooperation and assistance to China and appealed to other countries for help to bird flu infected countries.

Q: According to spokesperson of the Nigerian government, the DPRK has proposed sharing with Nigeria missile technologies and the two countries will soon sign an initial agreement.  The US has asked Nigeria to reject the plan.  In view of the North Korean nuclear question, what is the Chinese Government’s response?

A: We have taken note of such reports.  We have also noticed the statement by the Nigerian government saying that the Nigerian-DPRK military trade does not involve nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction.

After the press conference, Ms Zhang Qiyue was asked to comment on the results of President Hu Jintao’s visit to France.  To this, Zhang stated that President Hu Jintao’s four-day visit to France was tightly programmed and yielded rich fruits.  The visit has been a complete success and will surely exert important influence on the furtherance of China-France relations.

President Hu Jintao had in-depth exchange of views with President Chirac and other leading French officials on bilateral relations and major international and regional hot topics.  They reached broad and important consensus.  The China-France joint communiqué was signed and the guiding principles for deepening China-France comprehensive strategic partnership were put forward, setting out the direction for the furtherance of coordination and cooperation in international affairs as well as in political, economic, military, cultural, scientific and educational cooperation.  On the question of Taiwan, the French Government reiterated its adherence to the one-China policy, and its opposition to any unilateral action, including any referendum, aiming to change the status quo, aggravating cross-Straits tension and leading to “Taiwan independence”.  The Chinese side expressed its high appreciation of the French position, namely the adherence to the one-China policy and opposition to Taiwan authorities’ attempts to promote “Taiwan independence” under the pretext of referendum.  President Hu Jintao also put forward a three-point proposal on deepening China-France strategic cooperation, on building a comprehensive partnership in trade and economic cooperation that is sustained and stable, and on vigorously strengthening cultural exchanges.  Various agreements of cooperation between the two countries were signed during the visit.

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