The 13th meeting of China-Singapore Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation, the 18th meeting of China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park Joint Steering Council, the ninth meeting of China-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City Joint Steering Council, and the first meeting of China-Singapore (Chongqing) Demonstration Initiative on Strategic Connectivity Joint Steering Council will be held in Beijing on February 27.
At the invitation of Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of the State Council, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean of the Republic of Singapore will be in China from February 26 to March 1 to co-chair the above-mentioned meetings with Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli .
The Suzhou Industrial Park and Tianjin Eco-City are flagship projects for China-Singapore government-to-government cooperation. During President Xi Jinping's visit to Singapore in 2015, the two sides agreed on jointly building the third government-to-government project-the China-Singapore (Chongqing) Demonstration Initiative on Strategic Connectivity (CCI). More than one year into its launch, the project has made positive progress. This will be the first official meeting of the CCI Joint Steering Council. The two sides will further exchange views on deepening cooperation in key areas and chart the course for the development of the bilateral relationship.
Singapore is an important member of ASEAN. China and Singapore have established an all-around cooperative partnership progressing with the times. The two sides have been conducting extensive cooperation on the basis of equality and mutual benefit. China values its relationship with Singapore and would like to enhance political mutual trust and practical cooperation with Singapore and move forward the bilateral relations in a sound and steady fashion.
At the invitation of Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland Timo Soini will pay an official visit to China from February 26 to March 1.
China-Finland relationship is developing with a sound momentum. The two sides are taking positive steps to implement the important consensus reached between President Xi Jinping and President Sauli Niinistö and making joint efforts to forge and promote a new type of future-oriented cooperative partnership. The two countries have seen frequent high-level exchanges, increasing political mutual trust, and remarkable achievements in practical cooperation covering the fields of trade and investment, energy conservation and environmental protection, innovation and entrepreneurship, and Arctic scientific research. Vibrant people-to-people exchanges contribute to growing friendship. We believe that Foreign Minister Soini's visit will inject new impetus to the development of China-Finland relations.
Q: Yesterday, State Councilor Yang Jiechi and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke over the phone. The two sides reportedly agreed to jointly address the Korean nuclear issue. Can you give us more details?
A: As for State Councilor Yang Jiechi's telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, we have released the readout.
I want to reiterate that China commits to realizing the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, maintaining peace and stability on the Peninsula, and resolving the issue through negotiation and consultation. In order to break the negative cycle which the Peninsula issue is trapped in and in light of the concerns of all parties and the reality on the Peninsula, China raised a proposal seeking to achieve the denuclearization of the Peninsula in parallel with the replacement of the armistice with a peace deal so as to strive for the resumption of the Six-Party Talks. We would like to enhance communication and coordination with all relevant parties, including the United States, to jointly seek and find a breakthrough for the relaunch of the negotiations, and play a constructive role in maintaining peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and properly resolving the Korean nuclear issue.
Q: US officials say that China is building structures on the South China Sea islands that they suspect could be used to house long-range surface-to-air missiles? Can you confirm that?
A: We have seen these reports. China has indisputable sovereignty over Nanhai Zhudao and the adjacent waters. China firmly safeguards its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests. Meanwhile, we are always committed to resolving relevant disputes in a peaceful way with countries directly concerned through dialogue and consultation and to collectively maintaining peace and stability of the South China Sea with ASEAN countries.
I want to reiterate that China carrying out normal facility construction, including deploying necessary and appropriate national defense facilities, on its own territory, is exercising a right bestowed by international law to sovereign states. Thanks to the concerted efforts made by China and ASEAN countries, the situation in the South China Sea is improving in a sound and steady way. We hope that non-regional countries can truly respect the efforts made by regional countries and do more for regional peace and stability.
Q: The first BRICS Sherpas Meeting for this year will be held soon. Can you tell us more about the meeting's program and topics?
A: Thank you for your interest in the first BRICS Sherpas Meeting. China assumed the BRICS Chairmanship on January 1. The BRICS Summit will be held in Xiamen, Fujian Province in September. From February 23 to 24, China will host the first BRICS Sherpas Meeting in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province. State Councilor Yang Jiechi will attend and address the opening ceremony. This is the first official event China will host under its chairmanship which will gather more than 100 people, including Sherpas, diplomatic envoys in China and the New Development Bank representatives.
The Sherpas mechanism, as a main vehicle to coordinate and promote the BRICS cooperation, primarily serves to make political preparations for the BRICS Summit. The Sherpas meetings are convened several times per year by the BRICS Chair to discuss overall BRICS cooperation and prepare for the Summit.
Focusing on the theme of "Stronger Partnership for a Brighter Future" and considering the current international situation, the first Sherpas Meeting will discuss the BRICS cooperation in 2017, especially in the political, economic, and cultural sectors. We believe that this meeting will help chart the course for the BRICS cooperation throughout the year and ensure a good start for China's BRICS Chairmanship.
Q: The ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Retreat issued a press release yesterday in the Philippines, in which all ASEAN foreign ministers underscore the importance of the full and effective implementation of the DOC in its entirety and the early adoption of the COC. Also there are reports saying that Philippine Foreign Secretary Yasay told the press after the meeting that all ASEAN countries were unanimous in concern over China's deployment of weapons on the artificial islands and militarization in the South China Sea, urging relevant parties to prevent escalation through dialogue. What is your comment?
A: We have noted these reports. The ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Retreat held yesterday in the Philippines mainly discussed the ASEAN community building and the celebration of ASEAN's 50th anniversary. Thanks to the concerted efforts of China and ASEAN countries, the situation in the South China Sea is becoming more stable. On the basis of fully and effectively implementing the DOC, China would like to work with ASEAN countries to actively move forward the COC consultations, complete a draft framework of the COC by the mid of this year, and strive to conclude the COC based on consensus building at an early date.
On February 27, which is next Monday, the 19th working group meeting on the DOC implementation participated by China and ten ASEAN countries will be held in Bali, Indonesia. All parties are expected to exchange views on implementing the DOC and promoting maritime practical cooperation and the COC consultations. China will work in confidence with relevant countries to advance the COC talks and to collectively safeguard peace and stability of the South China Sea by properly handling differences, managing disputes and removing disturbances through regional institutional arrangements.
You mentioned something reportedly said by Philippine Foreign Secretary Yasay. I believe that they are opinions of his own, not of the whole ASEAN group. I need to point out that since taking office last July, President Duterte has been making positive efforts to improve China-Philippine relations, properly handle the South China Sea issue, and work with China to place the issue back to the right track of bilateral friendly consultation. Since the successful state visit to China by President Duterte last October, the all-round improvement of the bilateral relationship has led to thriving cooperation in various fields which has delivered benefits to the two peoples. This has been widely endorsed and well-received. This fully proves that relevant policies by President Duterte meet the fundamental interests of the two countries and peoples and contribute to regional peace and stability. We hope that Foreign Secretary Yasay follows the same line.