|Foreign Ministry Spokesman Kong Quan's Press Conference on 15 April|
Kong: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I have no announcements to make. Let's just go straight into Q&A.
Q: In the talks with US Vice President Cheney, the Chinese side has made clear its position on the question of Taiwan. Were there any non-Taiwan questions discussed between Cheney and President Hu Jintao, President Jiang Zemin and Premier Wen Jiabao? Will China increase its weapon sales as a response to the US arms sales to Taiwan? It is reported that Cheney provided new evidence on the DPRK nuclear program during the talks. Is China then convinced that the DPRK does have nuclear weapons?
A: You are a good observer. Indeed, in the talks and meetings with Vice President Cheney, the Chinese leaders illustrated on China's solemn position on the question of Taiwan in the most accurate and fullest terms. Besides Taiwan, they also covered a broad range of other topics. Top on the agenda is bilateral relations. They exchanged views on the exchange of high-level visits, either the recently concluded or the upcoming ones. They agreed that maintaining such visits is important for further understanding, trust and cooperation between the two countries. In addition, the two sides had an in-depth exchange of views on trade and economic issues. Despite the booming trade and economic cooperation over the recent years, there have been inevitably, some problems, triggering mutual attention and joint efforts for a solution. The upcoming attendance by Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi at the 15th session of the China-US Joint Commission of Commerce and Trade was also on the agenda. On top of all that, the leaders also talked about cooperation in other fields and exchanged views on regional situation, the DPRK nuclear issue and counter-terrorism cooperation. In a nutshell, the scope of their discussions itself has again testified to the fact that as influential powers in the world, China and US have shared interests in many issues and need to increase exchanges and cooperation.
On the US arms sales to Taiwan, we have stated our position many times. During this visit, the Chinese leaders have reaffirmed our resolute opposition against such an interference into China's internal affairs. On China's sales of conventional weapons as you mentioned, I can tell you that the amount is very limited and we are extremely discreet as we always do. We have a fundamental principle in such sales, i.e., rather than an interference into the recipient countries' internal affairs, it would only benefit their national defense and stability and regional peace and stability.
We have no knowledge about the DPRK nuclear capability. But as we have stressed on many occasions, China always stands for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and has been committing itself to a peaceful solution through dialogue. It is precisely based on this reason that we have successfully hosted the three-party and six-party talks. Now we are actively pushing for the third round of the six-party talks, so that the DPRK nuclear issue can be peacefully settled through dialogue and the Peninsula can enjoy peace and stability.
Q: When meeting with Vice President Cheney yesterday, President Hu Jintao said that he expects to meet President Bush in the second half of this year. My question is will President Hu meet President Bush on the sidelines of this year's APEC meeting or will he pay an official visit to the United States? President Hu attended events at last year's G8 Summit held in France. This year, the meeting will be hosted by the United States. Will he go there and use the occasion for a US visit?
A: As a rule, China and US will meet bilaterally on the sidelines of the APEC meeting in the second half of this year. As for whether President Hu will visit US in the second half of this year, I haven't heard of it at the moment. When the G8 Summit was held in Evian, France, President Hu did attend the South-North Informal Dialogue, a meeting under the initiative of President Chirac. As for whether a similar meeting will be arranged this year, I haven't seen any of such initiative by the US.
Q: Does China deem Vice President Cheney's evidence on the DPRK nuclear program credible? If so, will China watch this program closely? Will China show its concerns for the possible nuclear technology exports by the DPRK?
A: I have stated our position on this issue, when I was answering questions from other journalists. We know nothing about the nuclear program you referred to, but we are always for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. This is our consistent and clear position.
On nuclear proliferation, I have used this podium to brief the international community on our position. That is, the Chinese Government resolutely objects to nuclear proliferation of all forms. We have actually formulated a range of laws and regulations, stepped up law enforcement and deepened our cooperation with the international community in this area.
Follow-up: According to Mr. Cheney, in addressing the DPRK nuclear issue, time is not on our side. Could you make any comment?
A: We think this issue must be put to an early settlement, which requires maximum flexibility and pragmatism by all parties concerned. The first step is to translate into practice the agreements reached at the second round of the six-party talks, and immediately set up a working group and formulate guidelines for the next stage. My overall impression is that all parties share the desire for a peaceful and early solution to the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula.
Q: According to Washington Post, Cheney indicated that the US decision to increase its sales of defensive weapons to Taiwan mainly relates to the mainland's increase of missile deployment targeting Taiwan. Is the mainland happy about his statement? It is also reported that Vice President Cheney delivered a letter from Vatican to Beijing, which seems to be about the future diplomatic relationship. Could you confirm this? What about the progress in developing diplomatic relations between Beijing and Vatican?
A: In the talks and meetings with Vice President Cheney, President Hu Jintao, Chairman Jiang Zemin and Premier Wen Jibao all made clear China's solemn position on the US arms sales to Taiwan and urged the US to observe its commitments, abide by the "8.17" Communiqué, immediately stop providing weapons to Taiwan and sending wrong signals to Taiwan independence forces, for the sake of the overall interest of China-US relationship and the stability in the Taiwan Straits. Cheney said that he is aware of the importance of the Taiwan question on the bilateral relationship and reaffirmed that the US would adhere to its one-China policy based on the Three Joint Communiqués, show no support for Taiwan independence and oppose any actions that intend to unilaterally change the status quo in the Taiwan Straits. We urge the US side to observe its commitments.
I am not sure if he has brought any written letters or oral messages. However, regarding the China-Vatican relationship, the ball is in Vatican's court. If Vatican really wants to develop relations with us, it must, above all, sever its so-called diplomatic ties with Taiwan and refrain from interfering into China's internal affairs under the excuse of religion.
Q: China has indicated many times that all parties are working for a solution to the DPRK nuclear issue. How soon will you start the next stage? Will Vice President Cheney's visit help push forward the six-party talk process? Has he stated any position that can help kicking off the next stage of work immediately? When will the working group be put into operation? When will the third six-round talk be opened?
A: The six-party talk requires efforts from the six parties instead of a single one party. China has been working persistently towards this objective. This is also an issue discussed by the Chinese leaders and the visiting US Vice President Cheney. The Chinese leaders indicated that there are differences, even very serious ones, in the settlement process. However, all parties concerned should be flexible and pragmatic so as to set up a working group and hold a working group meeting as a preparation for the next round of the six-party talk. On the specific date, I have nothing to offer you now. But of course, we hope the sooner, the better. Still, that requires coordination and support, and greater flexibility and pragmatism from the other five parties. We are deeply convinced that maintaining a good momentum of seeking a peaceful solution through dialogue and negotiations is critical for ensuring a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and the ultimate peace and stability on the Peninsula and Asia as a whole.
Q: Leaders from many countries will attend this year's annual meeting of the Boao Forum for Asia. How do you assess the significance that this annual meeting has on regional economy and a win-win objective?
A: The Boao Forum for Asia annual meeting will take place from 24 to 25 this month in Boao, Hainan. I would also like to use this opportunity to welcome the presence of the Pakistani Prime Minister Jamali. Along with him will be Czech President Claus and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. The fundamental purpose of this forum is to deepen economic exchanges, coordination and cooperation between Asian countries and open Asia to the world by enhancing dialogue and exchanges with the world. In particular, it offers a high-level platform for government officials, corporate leaders, experts and scholars to exchange views on economic and social cooperation. Since its creation, the forum has made substantive progress and captured increasing attention from different communities. President Hu Jintao will attend the upcoming forum meeting and deliver a keynote speech. Based on what I have, the theme of this year's forum meeting is "Asia searching for win-win-an Asia open for the world", which reveals the desire of all Asian countries to increase exchanges and cooperation with the rest of the world and to achieve a win-win result and joint prosperity.
Q: Do you think Cheney's visit will be a small step or a big step in resolving the DPRK nuclear issue?
A: I hope that the further exchange of views between China and the US can be of some help to immediately implement consensus reached at the recently-concluded second round of the six-party talks, launch a working group and prepare for the third round of the six-party talk.
Q: How will the foreign ministry respond to Dalai Lama's upcoming visit to Canada? How is the negotiation going between the Chinese Government and Dalai Lama?
A: On this visit, we have launched solemn representations with the Canadian Government. As we have repeatedly stated, he is not purely a religious figure, but rather a political exile who has been long engaged in activities aimed at separating the motherland. In view of the all-round development of China-Canada relationship, we don't think it appropriate for the Canadian Government to provide any podium or venues for Dalai Lama, who is indeed a separatist. Instead, we hope that the Canadian Government can bear in mind the friendly relations between the two countries and correct their mistakes by canceling relevant meetings.
We have reiterated our position on the Dalai Lama question. I have no additional remarks, but I would like to stress that Dalai Lama should translate words into actions. In other words, he must stop separatist activities in practice.
Q: At the last press conference, you mentioned that parties are divided on the formation of the working group for six-party talks. Could you detail us on these divisions? What are they?
A: The Concept Paper that China has put forward on the working group was approved in principle by all parties. They highly assessed China's efforts in pushing forward an immediate formation of the working group and preparing for the third round of six-party talks. Meanwhile, there are divisions on the agenda and operational approaches. I am not in a position to give you details, since intensive discussions are still in the process. What we can do right now is to pool together our consensus and press for more flexibility so as to initiate the working group and fully discuss the remaining issues, differences and the next stage of our work.
Q: Does China rate Cheney's visit a success?
A: Vice President Cheney left for the ROK just an hour ago to continue his Asia tour. I don't have all the details of this visit. But I can give you my preliminary impression. First, this is an important visit. A mechanism is in place for the exchange of high-level visits between China and the US. For us, it is important for the two sides to stay in frequent contacts, which can help us constantly exchange views on major issues, in particular, how to further bilateral relationship. Of course, besides exchange of visits, the two leaders communicate with each other through exchange of correspondences and phone calls. But apparently, face-to-face exchanges are not to be taken lightly. Second, this is a positive visit. The general trend for China-US relationship is good. We are making progress in political, economic and other areas of mutually-beneficial cooperation, and expanding our cooperation in banking industries and counter-terrorism. During this visit, the two sides agreed that mutually-beneficial cooperation serves the interest of the two peoples and committed themselves to jointly developing constructive cooperative relationship. On the question of Taiwan, the Chinese leaders have given Vice President Cheney a full and detailed illustration of the Chinese Government's position. Given the current complexities in the Taiwan Straits and the rampant independence activities, such an illustration is more than necessary. We urge the US to adhere to the one-China policy as they have repeatedly pledged, and abide by the Three Joint Communiqués. In a word, through this visit, the two sides have agreed to expand exchanges, increase consensus, narrow differences and encourage cooperation. It is safe to say that this is an important and positive visit.
Q: Could you comment on President Bush's recent speech on Iraq? Bush called Kim Jong II a threat to peace. Can I have your comment?
A: We have noted President Bush's press conference. We are deeply concerned about the deteriorating security in Iraq. We hope that in the near future, Iraq will restore stability and the Iraqis will exercise sovereignty and embark on a road towards peace, stability and development.
On your second question. I haven't seen the exact wording. But I certainly don't agree with that. Differences and disputes between countries should be peacefully resolved through dialogue. What is most at stake now is for all parties to make concerted efforts, be flexible and pragmatic, launch the working group and better prepare for the third round of the six-party talks.
If there are no further questions, I guess we will stop here. Thank you for your attendance.