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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Kong Quan's Press Conference on 1 April, 2004

Kong: Good afternoon,ladies and gentlemen.  Before I start, I would like to make an announcement.

At the invitation of Premier Wen Jiabao, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende of the Kingdom of the Netherlands will pay a working visit to China from April 6th to 7th.

I also recognize the presence of a delegation of young diplomats from Malaysia, one of our friendly countries.  They are now attending a training course in China.  On behalf of the Information Department, I would like to extend a big welcome to them and wish them a pleasant stay in Beijing.

With that, I am happy to take your questions.

Q: Today is the three-year anniversary of the China-US spy plane incident.  What, in your view, has that incident impacted China-US relationship?  What, do you think, should be learned by the United States from that incident?

A: Undoubtedly, this incident has a very serious nature and severely undermined the then China-US relationship. Therefore, we have strongly appealed to the US to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China and stop sending any planes to the coastal areas of China for surveillance purposes.

As for what should be learned by the US, I suggest you raise this question to the authorities in charge in the United States.    

Q: This week, China has revised its visa policy towards the United States.  Could you please comment on China's position on this issue?  If the current US practices remain unchanged, what measures will China take?

A: Thank you for asking this question.  We have been having discussions with the US on this issue since late last year.  On one hand, we understand that it necessary for the United States to take certain measures as a way to bolster domestic security in the aftermath of September 11.  Actually, counter-terrorism is a mission for all countries.  On the other hand, there have been very frequent people-to-people exchanges between the two countries. ?might not have a complete set of statistics, but I can tell you, last year saw over one million visits between the two countries.  Trade, cultural, educational and other exchanges and cooperation are also expanding constantly.  However, certain US visa practices in the recent years have created barriers and inconveniences to bilateral exchanges.  Given this, we see no need at all for the US to continue fingerprinting and other practices towards China.  Since January, the Chinese Foreign Ministry and the Chinese Ambassador to the US have repeatedly launched representations with the US, urging it to bear in mind the bigger picture of encouraging people-to-people exchanges between the two and seeking a proper solution.  Regrettably, however, the US was stubborn and insisted on its own way.  China is therefore left with no other option except to take countermeasures, about which I am not going to details here.  But I do want to stress that China adopts an open approach towards this issue.  We are always ready to exchange views with our US counterparts on how to simplify procedures and encourage further people-to-people exchanges.      

Q: Sources say that the Pentagon plans to sell ultra-frequency long-range early warning radar system worth US $1.78 billion to Taiwan.  Can I have your comment on this?

A: I've also read about this.  The Chinese Foreign Ministry or the Chinese Embassy to the US will launch an official representation with the US, asking for a clarification.

We have stressed, on many occasions, that the question of Taiwan is a core issue bearing on China's interest.  It is also the most sensitive and important issue in China-US relationship.  We strongly object to US selling advanced weaponry to Taiwan, because this violates the three joint communiqués and the repeated commitments of the US that it adheres to the one-China principle and oppose Taiwan independence.  Given the complexity in the Taiwan Straits at this point, we urge the US to live up to its promises, observe the three joint communiqués and keep the China-US relationship along a sound and smooth track.

Q: Reports say that the UN rapporteur on torture Mr. Theo Van Boven will visit China this June and have access to Chinese prisons.  Could you please confirm this?

A: I have two points to make on this question.  First, we are positive towards having dialogues and cooperation with the UN human rights institutions.  As a matter of fact, a range of productive dialogues and cooperation have been held.  Second, the details of the visit are still under discussion.  Topics and agenda are yet to be worked out.

Q: How much contribution has China pledged at the Berlin International Conference on Afghanistan?  Has China assisted in any projects and what are they?  How is the assistance process going?  Who represents China at this conference?  Why is there only one Chinese peace-keeping police officer in Kabul?

A: I will tell you who represents China first.  I remember when I announced the news of Minister Li Zhaoxing heading a Chinese delegation at the Berlin Conference, you did listen attentively and noted down what I said,?

Journalist: Sorry, I forgot.

A: That's alright. It also happens to me quite often.

On the amount of contribution, the Chinese Government has, as early as 2002, announced a US $155 million package in the ensuing five years.  Up to now, 47 million has been delivered.  Another 15 million in interest-free assistance is on its way this year.  Afghanistan is China's friendly neighbor.  We are more than relieved and delighted to see the war-ravaged Afghan people back to the road of peaceful reconstruction.  We are also ready to provide assistance within our capacity and do our part for peace, stability and prosperity to reach people there at an early date.

On infrastructure, the Kabul Republic Hospital is largely completed, the Parvan Dam Reconstruction Project has been under operation just recently.  China has also indicated its readiness to participate in the reconstruction of Kandaha Hospital.  On political security, China is also an active participant.  We have also decided to increase the amount of goods donation, including camps, copy machines and lighting equipments, valued at around US?one million?On trade and private investment, many Chinese companies have been engaged in the reconstruction process and the Government is giving incentives to bring in more competent Chinese companies.  On human resources development, we plan to undertake a school-building project and will send a study mission in the near future.  Besides, we are having dialogues on the training programs for Afghan diplomats.

On security issues you mentioned, we are also having discussions with our Afghan counterparts.  You are right that there is only one Chinese policeman in Afghanistan, but I am optimistic that exchanges and cooperation in this area will expand as well.

Q: Just now, you said that the Chinese Government will make an official demand for the US Government to clarify the incident of US arm sales to Taiwan.  Has this been done already? In the case of the ultimate approval by the US Government on the sales of such advanced weapons, what impact will that have on China-US relationship?

A: I read this news only this morning.  I have no doubt that on such a principle issue that has a great bearing on China's core interest, China will launch an official representation with the US for clarification in the shortest time possible.  We will repeat our strong opposition against US arms sales to Taiwan.  In particular, given the current complexity in the cross-Straits relations, we urge the US to observe its commitments, rather than sending wrong signals to Taiwan independent forces.  The US has stated repeatedly that it would help maintain peace and stability of the Taiwan Straits.  We hope that the US will act by its words, which is also an important basis for a sound and smooth growth of China-US relationship.

Q: Does China consider the Three Joint Communiqués legally-binding international treaties?  Considering the fact that the obligation of defending Taiwan appears in an act adopted by the US Congress instead of the government and its execution is restricted, in what way can China then object to the US arms sales to Taiwan?

A: Since you have been posted in China for quite some time, I guess you must have had a comprehensive knowledge of the China-US relationship.  The Shanghai Communiqué, the 1978 Communiqué on establishing diplomatic relationship and the ensuing 8.17 Communiqué are important foundation for political relationship between the two countries.  Otherwise, there is no point to speak on all the cooperation that we have today. Therefore, I deem it imperative to abide by the consensus we reached and positions we illustrated in the three documents and translate them into actions.  This is the only means to keep our relationship along a sound track.

We never recognize the "Taiwan Relations Act".

Q: I was told that the Oil Minister from Saudi Arabia will arrive in Beijing late today and start his visit to China.  Do you have more details on that?  Will he discuss with Chinese Government officials on China's oil imports from Saudi Arabia and issues relating to OPEC?

A: Based on the information I have, Minister Ali I. Al-Naimi of Oil and Mineral Resources of Saudi Arabia will pay a goodwill visit to China from Aril 1 to 3, at the invitation of the China National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).  He will exchange views with officials from NDRC on energy cooperation between the two sides.  As the major oil producer, Saudi Arabia holds a prominent position in OPEC.  Besides, as China continues with its economic growth, we certainly expect more productive and mutually-beneficial energy cooperation with the international community, OPEC members in particular.  Apart from meetings with NDRC officials, the Saudi oil minister will also meet with Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan.  We hope that this visit will help us increase mutual understanding and expand mutually-beneficial cooperation.

Q: Could you please comment on the recent visit by the Chinese Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan to Pakistan and the China-Pakistan defense cooperation?

A: I think I have briefed you on Minister Cao's visit to Pakistan at the previous press conference.  Having concluded his visit to India yesterday, he is now on his way to Thailand.  Since you raised this question for the second time, I'd like to give this visit a broader perspective.  The visit started on March 22 and will end on April 3, covering three countries: India, Pakistan and Thailand.  The fundamental purpose of this goodwill visit is to implement the policy of developing friendship with China's neighbors, i.e., living in harmony and partnership with its neighbors, and promote mutual understanding, trust, friendship and cooperation between China and countries concerned.  When he was in Pakistan, he met with the President, Prime Minister and military chiefs.  It is safe to say that this visit is important and beneficial, as it is an impetus for bilateral relationship, including military and defense cooperation.  When he was in India, Minister Cao had separate meetings with Indian Prime Minister and Defense Minister.  In a nutshell, in his visit, he had an in-depth exchange of views with political leaders of the three countries on bilateral relationship, and at the same time, he met with military chiefs, including defense ministers and joint chiefs of staff and visited military schools and colleges.  Third, Minister Cao also held an in-depth exchange of views with leaders of the three countries on regional and international situations.  These discussions are equally important.  On international situations and regional situations in particular, he stressed that as a close neighbor of the South Asian countries, China sincerely hopes that countries in this region can live in harmony and develop hand in hand for common prosperity.  As you can see, either with his hosts in Pakistan or India, he has pledged China's consistent support for the peace process between the two countries and its readiness to play a constructive role in pressing ahead peaceful cooperation in South Asia.

Q: Could you give us more on the upcoming visit by the Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi?  Whom is she going to meet with?  What prominence do these historical problems have in the overall China-Japan relationship? For example, Diaoyu island and Yasukuni shrine?  Will that affect the relationship in 2004?

A: Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi will visit China from April 3 to 4. Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing will meet with her when he is back from Berlin.  State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan will also meet with her.  We leave open the possibility for other Chinese government leaders to meet with her.

On the problems you just mentioned, we have actually repeated our positions on many occasions.  Let me be brief.  First, historical problems must be taken seriously.  The visit to Yasukini shrine is in particular, a highly serious issue.  The decision on this issue reflects the level of awareness on the Japanese side on the war of aggression, which has brought huge sufferings to many countries and peoples in Asia.  If Japan wants to win back trust from people in Asia and the world, then it must make clear its positions and take actions accordingly.  It is true that some Japanese leaders have repeatedly indicated they would face history squarely and exercise self-review, but the approach for doing that deserves much of their consideration.  China has a clear-cut policy, that is, taking history as lessons and facing the future.  China-Japan relationship is important for us and we look forward to sound and smooth cooperation between us in all fields.  As history is the basis, however, I would like to talk a bit more about the issue of Diaoyu island.  First, Diaoyu island and its surrounding islands are China's inherent territories. On this, we have compelling evidence from both history and international law.  China has an indisputable sovereignty over these islands and unshakable resolve in maintaining our sovereignty.  Second, despite division on this issue, China is always for a peaceful solution through negotiations.  As I have mentioned, China and Japan are two biggest countries in East Asia, our two peoples have had friendly exchanges since ancient times and we do share common interests on many issues.  Therefore, we expect that both of us can show greater wisdom and resolve for an effective solution of the outstanding issues, so as to sustain the good momentum of China-Japan cooperation, bring benefit to our two peoples and contribute to peace and stability in Asia.

Q: How prominent will these historical problems be in the talks between the two foreign ministers? How long will these discussions take?

A: It goes beyond doubt that no side can turn away from these issues.  I believe Minister Li will further elaborate on China's positions, which I assume the Japanese side has been very familiar with. As for how prominent or how long these issues will take, I am sorry I can't give you a quantified answer yet.  But I can assure you of the prominence of these issues.  Besides, it is clear that the two sides share a will to further understanding, narrow differences, expand consensus and encourage cooperation through this visit.

If there are no further questions, let's call it a day. Thank you for coming.

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