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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian’s Regular Press Conference on June 7, 2022

CCTV: As we understand, senior officials’ meetings on East Asia cooperation will be held in the coming days. What expectations does China have for these meetings? 

Zhao Lijian: The ASEAN Plus Three (China, Japan and the Republic of Korea) Senior Officials’ Meeting (APT SOM), East Asia Summit Senior Officials’ Meeting (EAS SOM) and ASEAN Regional Forum Senior Officials’ Meeting (ARF SOM) will be held via videoconference on June 8 and 9. During the meetings, participants will hold discussions on the implementation of the outcomes of leaders’ meetings last year and future development of relevant mechanisms, and exchange views on international and regional issues of mutual interest. Assistant Foreign Minister Wu Jianghao will attend the above-mentioned meetings.

Since the end of 2021, China and ASEAN countries have been actively implementing the outcomes of the Special Summit to Commemorate the 30th Anniversary of China-ASEAN Dialogue Relations. Our friendly and cooperative relations have kept deepening. With the smooth entry-into-force and implementation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, trade among member states has witnessed rapid growth and regional economic integration has made continuous progress. In the meantime, in a world that is still overshadowed by COVID-19 and undergoing profound changes in the international and regional situation, East Asia cooperation is facing complex and severe challenges. 

China hopes the upcoming meetings will help to further build the consensus among regional countries on solidarity, cooperation and joint response to challenges, stick to the right direction of East Asia cooperation, focus on post-COVID recovery and sustainable development, and deepen practical cooperation across the board. The meetings are also expected to accumulate outcomes for the series of foreign ministers’ meetings and leaders’ meetings on East Asia cooperation and make greater contribution to regional peace, development and prosperity. 

The Paper: According to reports, the IAEA Board of Governors convened a meeting on June 6 and decided for the third time to discuss issues related to AUKUS nuclear submarine cooperation as a formal agenda item. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: For the third time, the IAEA Board of Governors Meeting decided by consensus to set up a formal agenda item to discuss “transfer of nuclear materials in the context of AUKUS and its safeguards in all aspects under the NPT” as called for by China. This is a clear indication that the transfer of weapons-grade nuclear materials involved in AUKUS nuclear submarine cooperation has drawn close attention and grave concern from the international community.

As China has stressed repeatedly, AUKUS nuclear submarine cooperation constitutes severe nuclear proliferation risks, delivers a blow to the international non-proliferation system, exacerbates arms race, and undermines regional peace and stability. The issue of safeguards in the context of AUKUS cooperation has an important bearing on the international non-proliferation system and concerns the interests of all member states. As such, a decision on this matter should be made through discussion by all member states. The US, the UK and Australia should earnestly fulfill their nuclear non-proliferation obligations, support rather than thwart this inter-governmental discussion process, and refrain from conducting nuclear submarine cooperation before parties reach a consensus. 

China calls on all member states to support and actively participate in IAEA discussions of AUKUS nuclear submarine cooperation to jointly defend the international non-proliferation system with the NPT as the cornerstone and safeguard world peace and security. 

Bloomberg: The Washington Post has reported that China is secretly building a naval facility at the Ream naval base in Cambodia on the Gulf of Thailand for the exclusive use of its military. How does the foreign ministry respond to this?

Zhao Lijian: We have noted that the Cambodian side already responded to this. It said that Cambodia’s constitution does not permit foreign military bases on Cambodian soil and that the renovation of the base serves solely to strengthen the Cambodian naval capacities to protect its maritime integrity and combat maritime crimes. The US has ignored and maliciously speculated and smeared Cambodia’s position. The US has even threatened and pressured Cambodia. This is typical bullying practice.

China and Cambodia are comprehensive strategic cooperative partners enjoying open, transparent, logical and legitimate cooperation in various sectors. Such cooperation has not only delivered benefits to both countries and peoples, but also set a good example of building a new type of international relations and a community with a shared future for mankind. In contrast, the US runs more than 800 military bases overseas; its military expenditure is equivalent to the total amount of the nine countries behind it; it was not at war for only 16 years throughout its nearly 250 years of history; it wantonly interferes in other countries’ internal affairs and sends military aircraft and warships to flex muscles at other countries’ doorstep. Who on earth is undermining global and regional security and stability and spreading disinformation? Anyone can tell.

Phoenix TV: A follow-up on my question yesterday. You made some comments yesterday on reports of former US diplomats posted in China who frankly revealed the US government’s plot to play the “Xinjiang card”. However, the US has not yet given any explanation in response. Do you have any further comment? Second, Spokesperson for the US State Department Ned Price said on June 6 that “Our policy is to seek dialogue, to seek engagement with the DPRK. Any country that puts the responsibility on us for the lack of dialogue, the lack of engagement, is either ill-informed or is propagating falsehoods.” What is your comment?

Zhao Lijian: On your first question, I think you should ask the US why it has not yet given any explanation.

I also noted some reports saying that a guest to the close-door cocktail reception held by the US Consulate General in Guangzhou for the business community posted the following on social media platform: “People in the chamber of commerce all believe this is insane in private. How could making up stories about Xinjiang do us any good! I travelled to that place (Xinjiang) and it was beautiful every time. There is nothing like genocide, forced labor thing over there, what we do is just 'to lie through one’s teeth'. Things used to be not bad when Chinese were nice to us and business went well until Trump changed it. I thought President Biden would make a difference and fix the mistakes soon but nothing obvious changed. When I heard what the consuls said I finally got it. Now we are paying for their dirty and ugly decisions. I am so angry and I have to tell the public.”

As a Chinese saying goes, “No wall is completely windtight” (meaning no secret can be kept forever). Those words actually reflect the shared voice of the business community who are coerced by the political plot of the US government. What an embarrassing revelation for the US! You probably did not believe us when we said before that genocide in Xinjiang is a “lie of the century” made up by the US. Now you can see how this lie came about. We once again ask the US to give an explanation, and stop its despicable moves of smearing Xinjiang with political manipulation.

On your second question, the US politician is known for blame-shifting. The crux of the current deadlock on the Korean Peninsula issue lies in the absence of US response to the DPRK’s denuclearization efforts in 2018 following the “action for action” principle, and the failure to accommodate the legitimate concerns of the DPRK. The US side should demonstrate sincerity and take real steps instead of shouting empty slogans for dialogue.

Yonhap News Agency: The IAEA Director General said yesterday that there are signs that the DPRK is “possibly in preparation for a nuclear test”. Does China have any plans to stop the DPRK from conducting nuclear tests?

Zhao Lijian: It is in the common interest of relevant parties and the international community as a whole to maintain peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula and realize denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. China hopes that the relevant parties will work together and stay committed to the political settlement of the Korean Peninsula issue.

MASTV: The Australian Department of Defence said that on May 26 an Air Force aircraft was intercepted by a Chinese military aircraft in the airspace over the South China Sea. Do you have any more comment on this?

Zhao Lijian: You may have noted that the Ministry of National Defense has responded to this. On May 26, an Australian Air Force P-8A maritime surveillance aircraft entered the airspace close to China’s Xisha Islands for close-in reconnaissance, and continuously approached the territorial airspace of Xisha Islands in disregard of China’s repeated warnings. The Chinese PLA Southern Theater Command organized naval and air forces to identify and verify the Australian aircraft and warned it to leave. The Australian military aircraft seriously threatened China’s sovereignty and security, and the response measures taken by the Chinese military were professional, safe, reasonable and legal. The Australian side sought to confound black and white and repeatedly spread the false narrative which is aimed at inciting antagonism and confrontation. China is firmly against this. We urge the Australian side to immediately stop such dangerous and provocative acts and seriously dissuade its air and naval forces from such acts. Otherwise, any serious consequence arising therefrom shall be borne by the Australian side.

I also want to stress that a sound and steady China-Australia relationship serves the fundamental interests and meets the common desire of the two peoples. China’s position on its relations with Australia is consistent and clear. The Australian side needs to manage the bilateral relations in the spirit of mutual respect and mutual benefit, and bring China-Australia relations back onto the right track of sound and steady progress.

Global Times: According to reports, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese indicated a few days ago that he would intervene with the US in order to have the charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange dropped. Do you have any comment?

Zhao Lijian: I have also taken note of relevant reports. From “PRISM”, “Irritant Horn” and “Stellar Wind”, to “Operation Telescreen”, “Hive” platforms and the Quantum attack system, the US has abused its advantage in internet and telecommunication technologies and, through digital surveillance, infringes on US citizens’ freedom of telecommunication and freedom of speech, and engaged in massive cyber attacks, surveillance and theft of secrets around the world. According to an annual report released by the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the FBI conducted up to 3.4 million warrantless searches of Americans’ electronic data last year. Danish media disclosed last year that the US National Security Agency spied on calls and chat messages to and from the phones of leaders of Germany, France, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands and other European countries. Documents leaked by Edward Snowden on the US surveillance program “Stateroom” show that the US has been operating a highly secretive signals intelligence collection program through almost a hundred US embassies and consulates worldwide. 

The US has undoubtedly become a true empire of hacking, surveillance and theft of secrets. While abusing its technological hegemony to conduct surveillance and theft of secrets and flagrantly trample on ordinary people’s privacy, the US has used national security as a catch-all pretext to wantonly suppress foreign hi-tech companies. Such double-standard behavior is a hallmark of US hegemony. If the US government has a clear conscience, it should willingly put itself under domestic and international oversight.

AFP: I have two questions. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decried China’s recent “irresponsible and provocative” actions against Canadian military aircraft in international airspace. What is China’s comment? And the US recently announced to suspend tariffs on solar panel imports from some Asian countries. But the measure will not be applied to Chinese solar panels. What is your comment?

Zhao Lijian: On your first question, I fully elaborated on China’s position yesterday. UN Security Council resolutions have never mandated any country to deploy forces and conduct surveillance operations in jurisdictional air and sea areas of other countries for the purpose of identifying sanctions evasion activities. The Canadian military aircraft’s close-in reconnaissance on China is flat-out irresponsible and provocative. 

China firmly rejects all moves that endanger China’s sovereignty and national security under all pretexts. Canada should respect objective facts, stop spreading disinformation and take real actions for the recovery and normal development of China-Canada relations.

On your second question, I have noted relevant reports too, and would like to refer you to competent authorities. I would like to emphasize that China urges the US to stop hobbling Chinese enterprises, quit the erroneous practice of disrupting the supply chain and industrial chain, and create favorable conditions for China-US cooperation on clean energy and climate change.

Beijing Youth Daily: June 3 is the National Gun Violence Awareness Day of the US. People across the country held activities to mourn for gun violence victims and call on the US government to take real actions to bring about change and prevent gun violence incidents from happening. What is China’s comment?

Zhao Lijian: According to the website of the Gun Violence Archive, this year the US has seen at least 246 mass shootings, or about 1.5 shootings per day on average, in each of which four or more people were killed or injured. The tally, fresh from this morning, does not even include incidents with fewer casualties. Behind these shocking numbers are countless lost lives and broken families. Gun violence has taken more than 18,000 lives over the first five months and more this year. Within 72 hours from May 28 to 30, over 300 gun-related incidents took place nationwide, claiming more than 130 lives.

The majority of Americans call on the government to act and stop such tragedies from recurring. Latest polls reveal that most Americans view gun violence as a serious social issue. A Pew Research Center survey in April indicated that 76% of Americans viewed gun violence as a “very big problem” or “moderately big problem”. According to the research findings of the University of Michigan, guns were the top killer of US children and teenagers in 2020, and up to 75% of American youths reported mass shootings as a significant source of stress. A report by The Hill showed that two in three American parents are concerned about mass shootings at schools. 

The US government needs to face up to its serious human rights conditions and governance deficit, take effective actions to put guns under control and end violence, and protect the right to life of the American people. The last thing the US should do is pass judgement on other countries and interfere in others’ domestic affairs in the name of human rights.

Bloomberg: Yesterday you were asked about a social media post by state media that said that two US officials have downplayed allegations of China’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang. Those were the officials that you mentioned earlier today at the consulate in Guangzhou. Yesterday you said this is not the first time US officials spoke their true mind. Today, a spokesperson for the US Embassy in Beijing said that China should stop attributing false statements to US officials or taking other actions that might subject our diplomats to harassment. I think the specific complaint was that the social media post named the two US government officials. So did China fabricate the statements by the two US officials and what’s the foreign ministry’s comment on this?

Zhao Lijian: Thank you for giving us the US’s explanation. As expected, they responded with a full denial. What I just quoted is not propaganda, nor is it made up by the Chinese government, but actual remarks posted on social media platform. All of us may take a close look at what has been said and decide which is true and which is false and find out which country is the “empire of lies”. 

Bloomberg: Sri Lanka is having trouble repaying its debts and says it needs billions to ensure its daily needs are met and that the Rupee is strong enough. Will China be willing to be treated on par with other Sri Lankan creditors given its inability to repay debts?

Zhao Lijian: We have answered relevant questions related to Sri Lanka on many occasions. We feel deeply for the difficulties and challenges Sri Lanka faces and are ready to play a constructive role in the steady economic and social development of Sri Lanka. As for Sri Lanka’s China-related debts, China supports relevant financial institutions in discussing with Sri Lanka and properly resolving them. We also stand ready to work with relevant countries and financial institutions to continue to play a constructive role in easing Sri Lanka’s debt burden and realizing sustainable development. At the same time, we hope and believe that Sri Lanka will work together with the parties concerned and boost its own effort to get through the difficulties, and protect the legitimate rights and interests of foreign investment and financing partners and maintain the stability and credibility of its own investment and financing environment.

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