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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson's Press Conference on 29th April, 2004

Kong quan: Good Afternoon, everyone. First of all, I would like to make an announcement. Through consultations between the parties concerned, the working group of the Six-Party Talks will hold its first meeting in Beijing on May 12th. The Chinese side is now keeping close contacts with other parties for further discussion on the schedule and other arrangements. The working group meeting carries on the work of the Six-Party Talks and thus, forms an important component of the Talks. We hope that all parties concerned will pool their efforts to ensure the success of the first working group meeting.

Now I am ready to take up your questions.

Q: Who will be the delegate of the Chinese side in the working group of the Six-Party Talks?

A: The Chinese delegate in the working group of the Six-Party Talks is Ambassador Ning Fukui, Ambassador in charge of the Korean Peninsula Issue of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Q: Could you please brief us on the specific questions on the agenda of the first working group meeting? What goals are set for the meeting?

A: This meeting of the Six-Party Talks working group is convened on the basis of the agreement reached at the last round of the Talks. The Chinese side has stayed in close touch with other parties concerned after the second round of the Talks and formulated a concept paper to facilitate the working group meeting. This meeting of the working group will be open to all ideas. All parties may have full opportunities to express their concerns and exchange views on the questions on the agenda.

The fundamental task of the meeting is to make good preparation for the third round of the Six-Party Talks. According to the agreement reached by all parties at the last round of the Talks, the third round is supposed to be held before the end of June.

Q: Premier Wen Jiabao is going to start his visit to the European Union on May 2nd. Can you tell us the schedule of his visit and the major topics on his agenda?

A: Before taking your question, I would like to know whether there are other questions concerning the working group of the Six-Party Talks, so that I can provide information to you with clear focus. Thank you!

Q: Do you have the name lists of the six delegations to the working group of the Six-Party Talks? Will the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse again be chosen as the venue?

A: Up to this moment, I have not received the name lists of the other five delegations, but I believe the lists will come up soon. The venue of the meeting will be Fangfeiyuan of the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse.

Q: How long will the working group meeting last?

A: All parties are of the view that the first meeting of the working group is very important and a wide range of topics might be covered in an in-depth manner. Therefore, they have unanimously agreed to leave the conclusion time of the meeting to future judgment based on its actual development.

Q: Will there be any background briefing for the press on the working group meeting? Will the meeting be a closed-door one?

A: As far as I know, this meeting is a closed-door one. With regards to background briefing, I'd be glad to inquire about relative information for you. But so far I don't have any clue.

Q: Why is the first working group meeting convened after as long as one month and a half since the end of the second round of the Six-Party Talks? What reasons are behind the timing of the working group meeting, that is, on May 12th?

A: It takes time for the parties concerned to make in-depth consideration on the questions discussed during the last round of the Six-Party Talks. As the axiom put forward by an ancient Chinese philosopher goes, "Only by moving step by step, can one reach distant destination." A long journey is still lying ahead before reaching the final settlement of the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula. We are moving ahead step by step with the joint efforts of all sides. You may recall that it was by one step after another that we made great headway, moving from the Three-Party Talks at the initial stage to the Six-Party Talks, from the first round of the Six-Party Talks to the second round, from the past nil engagement or, to some extent, explosive situation to the eventual success in bringing about talks and from the limited scope of talks agenda at the early stage to the extensive and in-depth discussion at the second round. I regard this working group meeting a very important one. As the host country, China looks forward to cooperation from all parties, so as to push forward our cause through this working group meeting and make good preparation for the third round of the Talks.

Following up: Is there any connection between the recent visit to China by Kim Jong Il and this work group meeting?

A: During his visit to China, Mr. Kim Jong Il expressed his willingness to resolve the relevant problems through dialogue and actively participate in the Six-Party Talks, so as to eventually attain the goal of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. Both the position of the DPRK side and efforts made by other sides helped promote the early convocation of the first meeting of the working group of the Six-Party Talks.

Q: Just now, you told us that how long the meeting would last depends on how the meeting would go along. What specific goals does China aim at in this meeting?

A: The goals of China are consistent with the goals of the other five parties, that is to say, all of us hope that the first working group meeting can make substantive progress and good preparation for the third round of the Six-Party Talks.

Q: In the process of contacts with other parties, did China notice any changes in the positions of the other five parties?

A: The Three-Party Talks and the first two rounds of Six-Party Talks have helped different parties consolidate and expand their common grounds, which in turn, created conditions for the upcoming working group meeting. I can tell you that China is continuing its close contacts with other parties. On the 28th of this month, Ambassador Ning Fukui met with Mr. Yabunaka Mitoji from Japan's Foreign Ministry and exchanged views with him on the relevant questions. Now Mr. Ning is visiting the ROK and then will go to the US and Japan for consultation on these questions. The fundamental goal of the Chinese side is to help all parties concerned to consolidate and expand their common grounds and reach consensus on the basic goals for the next round of Six-Party Talks and the working group, thus making solid preparation for the third round of the Talks.

If there are no more questions on the working group of the Six-Party Talks, I would like to go back to the question raised just now by that correspondent on Premier Wen's upcoming visit to some European countries and the EU Headquarters.

What I know so far is that Premier Wen Jiabao will set off to Europe on May 2nd. The first leg of his trip will be Germany, where he will stay from 2 to 4 May. Apart from talks with Chancellor Schroeder, major events of his trip will also include attending the opening ceremony of the third session of the China-Germany Forum on High-Tech Dialogue, delivering an important speech at the German Asia-Pacific Economic Committee and visiting the Laenders of Bavaria and Brandenburg.

The second leg of his trip will be Belgium and the EU Headquarters. As for bilateral activities in Belgium, he will meet with Prime Minister Verhofstadt, King Albert? and speakers of the Senate and the House of Representatives. He will also visit the EU Headquarters and meet with President of the European Commission Prodi and Mr. Solana, Secretary General of the Council of the European Union and High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy.

After visiting the EU Headquarters, Premier Wen will go to visit Italy. In addition to holding talks with Prime Minister Berlusconi, he will attend a symposium on investment between China and Italy and make a speech. After that, he will pay a visit to the Toscana Region, which has close relations with China, with frequent exchanges between the two sides in various areas.

From 9th to 11th, Premier Wen will visit the UK. There, he will hold talks with Prime Minister Tony Blair and meet with Queen Elizabeth?, Deputy Prime Minister Prescott, the Lord Chancellor of the Upper House, the Speaker of the Lower House and others.

Ireland will be the last leg of Premier Wen's trip. He will hold talks with President McAleese and Taoiseach Ahern and meet with Deputy Prime Minister Harney, the Chairmen of the Senate and House of Representatives and other Irish leaders.

In sum, from the schedule that I briefed you on, you may see that Premier Wen will have a compact schedule with rich contents during his visit to Europe. I believe this visit will definitely play an important role in and serve as a strong driving force to the overall development of the relations between China and the European countries concerned as well as between China and the EU as a whole.

Following up: In the context of the EU enlargement, will the visit by Premier Wen have more substantial contents and significance?

A: Yes, you indicated a day of historic significance to the EU. On May 1st, the EU will realize the largest enlargement in its history, with ten new members joining it. During the sixth China-EU Summit at the end of last year, the two sides reaffirmed their joint commitment to the establishment of a comprehensive strategic partnership. In this context, we wish to congratulate the EU on its enlargement and hope that it will play a more positive and important role in international affairs by making its own efforts to help maintain peace, stability and development in the world. Meanwhile, we also believe that the EU enlargement is bound to present to the two sides important opportunities for the further development of the China-EU relations, not only in the political or economic area, but also in public health, science, culture, education and other areas. The comprehensive strategic partnership between the two sides has to be lasting, stable and all-dimensional. We hope this visit by Premier Wen will bring about greater progress in the development of the China-EU relations.

Q: Is China conducting consultation with the US on the question of the visa interview appointment call center in Shanghai hired by the US embassy in China? Has any progress been made? When will the Center be allowed to reopen its business? What were the true reasons leading to China's decision of closing the Center? Was it only because the Center was involved in illegal business operation and overcharged customers, or because the Chinese Government wanted to vent its anger on the US Government for some of its immigration policies towards China? Since the US visas have become unavailable to the Chinese citizens due to the closure of the Center, did any Chinese make complaints to China's Foreign Ministry?

A: The core of the question concerns the business operation of the company. First of all, the company was involved in business beyond the scope it applied for. Second, China's competent authorities have not approved its fee standards. Now we highlight in China the importance of ruling the country and performing official duties in accordance with law. By the way, 42 new laws, regulations and judicial interpretations will be in force in China on May 1st, including 22 at the national level and 20 at the local level. This illustrates that China's legal system is taking great strides in its development.

Let's come back to your question. I believe the reason you have suggested is inaccurate. One million visits are exchanged between China and the US each year. We hope to see continuous increase in the personnel exchanges between the two countries, which will help enhance our mutual understanding and facilitate mutual cooperation between the two sides. However, some recent practices in terms of visa application by the US are unacceptable to us. We have repeatedly expressed our stand to the US. But as for the question of Shanghai Xi'an Information Service Co. Ltd, the only reason for its closure is that it violates Chinese laws and regulations in its business scope and charge standards. China and US are keeping in contact on this question. We expect the US side to make more efforts to make sure the company operates in accordance with Chinese laws and regulations since it is located in our territory.

Q: What comments does China want to make on the proposals made by Special Envoy Brahimi to the Security Council on resolving the questions related to Iraq?

A: We would like to endorse and appreciate the efforts made by Special Envoy Brahimi. And we sincerely hope that Iraq can smoothly resume its independence and sovereignty and realize peace, democracy and development soon. We have taken note of the proposals made by Mr. Brahimi. We hope that the resolutions adopted by the Security Council will contribute to the early restoration of peace in Iraq, prompt emergence of an Iraq administered by the Iraqi people and guarantee for full respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq. We also stress that more attention should be paid to the voice of the Iraqi people of all communities and the suggestions of the UN Secretary General Annan on this question. We maintain that the UN should play an important role in this process.

Q: Can you repeat the time of Premier Wen's visits to Belgium, Italy and the EU? In addition, the US Government yesterday refused to investigate the accusations filed by the AFL-CIO against China's labor standards. What's your comment on this?

A: Premier Wen will pay visits to some West European countries and the EU Headquarters from the 2nd to 12th of May. He will visit Belgium from the 5th to 6th, the EU Headquarters on the 6th and Italy from the 6th to 8th. On the 12 May he will be on his way back to Beijing.

With regards to the decision made by the US Government, I only got this news a moment ago. As an initial response, I appreciate the decision of the US Government. We have repeated our views for many times that the economic and trade cooperation between China and the US is mutually beneficial. The problems popping up in the development of cooperation should be settled through dialogue and consultation in a cooperative spirit. We hold that it will be conducive to further expanding and strengthening the mutually beneficial economic and trade cooperation if this method is applied to solving problems and narrowing differences.

If no other questions are to be raised, I want to inform you that our regular press conference will be suspended from May 1st to 7th and resumed on May 11th (Tuesday). I would like to make it clear again that during the holiday, the special mobile phone of the Spokesman's Office will still be on duty and we will try our best to answer your questions.

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