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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian’s Regular Press Conference on March 17, 2022

2022-03-17 20:44

At the invitation of State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Foreign Minister of Algeria Ramtane Lamamra, Foreign Minister of Tanzania Liberata Mulamula and Foreign Minister of Zambia Stanley Kakubo will visit China from March 18 to 21.

Hubei Media Group: Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said at a press conference on March 16 that the international community must stand in solidarity and Japan “calls on China to take responsible action” on the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Besides, the Japanese government has announced multiple sanctions on Russia after the Russia-Ukraine conflict broke out. The Prime Minister called the southern Kuril Islands Japan’s inherent territory which is illegally occupied by Russia, and said Japan considers revising its National Security Strategy to comprehensively strengthen Japan’s defense capability. What is China’s comment?

Zhao Lijian: On the Ukraine issue, China has been making positive efforts to deescalate the situation as we are committed to promoting peace talks and proposing our initiative to resolve the current crisis. Our position is objective, fair, constructive and beyond reproach.

Due to the aggression of Japan’s militarism in modern history, Japan’s moves in the military and security fields have always been followed closely by its Asian neighbors. We have noted that some political forces in Japan have been using the Ukraine issue as a pretext recently to deliberately play up external threats and seek stronger military forces and capability. A stern warning to Japan: The victorious outcomes of the World Anti-Fascist War should be earnestly respected and upheld. The Japanese side should deeply reflect on history, draw lessons from the past, respect the security concerns of its Asian neighbors, stay committed to peaceful development, and do more things that benefit regional peace and stability instead of the opposite.

AFP: Staying with the Ukraine crisis, there’s mounting evidence now of several Russian attacks on civilian targets in Ukraine. Yesterday, Russian forces are believed to have attacked a theater in the city of Mariupol. Hundreds of civilians were thought to be sheltering inside at the time, and the Russian word for “children” was clearly painted on the ground outside. And yet they still attacked, killing an unknown number of civilians. My question is given that China has not explicitly opposed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, should we assume that China therefore has no problem with this kind of indiscriminate killing of civilians? President Biden has called President Putin a “war criminal”. Does China agree that Russia may have committed war crimes in Ukraine?

Zhao Lijian: On the Ukraine issue, China has made its view known that the international community should focus on two things, namely, peace talks and avoidance of a large-scale humanitarian crisis. We have also made huge efforts in this regard. China has proposed a six-point initiative on easing the humanitarian situation in Ukraine and has taken real actions. We will continue to provide new humanitarian assistance as needed.

I want to stress that China’s position on peace talks is consistent. You may refer to China’s statements on hotspot issues including Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Palestine and Israel. 

When it comes to civilian casualties and humanitarian situation, I wonder if you were equally concerned about the civilian casualties in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Palestine. Do these civilians mean nothing to you? Do not forget Serbia in 1999, or the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Did you show any care about civilian casualties there? If not, then you are in no position to make accusations against China.

China’s position is aboveboard, objective and just. But the US, NATO and some western media are very hypocritical, especially as some reports smack of racism. We suggest some media focus more efforts on things that are conducive to promoting peace. They may advise the US and NATO countries not to supply ammunition or add fuel to the flame, but to sit down and build peace by talking with Europe, Russia and Ukraine.

Phoenix TV: China has always emphasized its impartiality in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. But there are comments that China’s position is becoming increasingly “uncomfortable” and “awkward” as the situation develops. What is your response to this?

Zhao Lijian: I have elaborated on China’s position on the Ukraine issue many times. Unlike that of a few countries, China’s position is aboveboard, objective, fair and beyond reproach.

Speaking of “uncomfortable”, it is those countries that delude themselves into thinking that they can lord it over the world after winning the Cold War, those that keep driving NATO’s eastward expansion five times in disregard of other countries’ security concerns, and those that wage wars across the globe while accusing other countries of being belligerent, that should really feel “uncomfortable”. I learned that cats, dogs and trees in Russia will be sanctioned. I also heard that Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake is axed. But Tchaikovsky was a famous composer, who died over 100 years ago. What faults can be found with him or his Swan Lake, a timeless masterpiece of ballet? 

Xinhua News Agency: Could you share with us the arrangement for Algerian, Tanzanian and Zambian foreign ministers’ visit to China and China’s expectations? How does China see the relations with these three countries?

Zhao Lijian: I just released the information on the visits by Algerian, Tanzanian and Zambian foreign ministers. 

China and Algeria enjoy deep friendship. Algeria is the first Arab country that established comprehensive strategic partnership with China. In recent years, under the strategic guidance of the two heads of state, China-Algeria relations have experienced comprehensive and profound development. The two sides have supported each other firmly on issues related to each other’s core interests and major concerns, actively promoted Belt and Road cooperation, and achieved fruitful outcomes in practical cooperation in various areas. The two countries have stood together in combating COVID-19, and maintained close communication and coordination on international and regional affairs. China attaches great importance to developing China-Algeria relations, and stands ready to jointly elevate China-Algeria comprehensive strategic partnership to a higher level.

The upcoming visit will be Foreign Minister of Tanzania Liberata Mulamula’s first visit to China since she took office. China and Tanzania are comprehensive strategic partners with long-standing friendship. Our traditional friendship, forged by the older generation of leaders on both sides, is passed on to this day. Under the leadership of Chinese and Tanzanian heads of state, the bilateral ties witnessed rapid growth, with increasing political mutual trust and robust practical cooperation across the board. We have firmly supported each other on issues concerning each other’s core interests and major concerns, and maintained close communication and coordination on international and regional affairs. China always views and develops relations with Tanzania from a strategic height and long-term perspective. We are ready to work with Tanzania to strengthen Belt and Road cooperation, implement the nine programs under FOCAC and achieve more new outcomes of the bilateral cooperation. 

This will also be Foreign Minister of Zambia Stanley Kakubo’s first visit to China in his current capacity. Zambia is the first country in southern Africa to establish diplomatic relations with China. Our two countries enjoy traditional friendship. In recent years, bilateral cooperation in various sectors has made remarkable progress and the traditional friendship continues to deepen. China stands ready to work together with Zambia to further consolidate political mutual trust, deepen practical cooperation in various areas, strengthen communication and coordination in international and regional affairs, and deliver benefits to both countries and peoples.

Bloomberg: China’s ambassador to Ukraine Fan Xianrong said while meeting regional leaders in Lviv that “we have seen how great the unity of the Ukrainian people is, and that means its strength”. He also said China was a friend to Ukraine and respected its state, and then it wanted to help Ukraine’s economy develop. Does the foreign ministry support the ambassador’s characterization of China’s position here? 

Zhao Lijian: We of course support our ambassador’s statement. China supports all efforts conducive to realizing deescalation and political settlement and opposes any act that is counterproductive to reaching diplomatic resolution or even leads to escalation. We will continue to play a constructive role in easing the situation in Ukraine and stand ready to contribute our efforts to overcoming the humanitarian crisis.

Associated Press: The US Justice Department has accused five men of harassing Chinese dissidents in the United States on behalf of the Chinese government. What can you tell us about this? Did the Chinese government do this? Did it instigate harassment? How does the Chinese government respond to this accusation?

Zhao Lijian: I am not aware of the specifics. 

In principle, I want to emphasize that China firmly opposes the US’ unwarranted denigration and smearing against China by making excuses. China always asks Chinese citizens to abide by laws and regulations in host countries. We have never asked and will never ask Chinese citizens to do things in violation of local laws and regulations. The accusation of “transnational repression schemes” is totally made out of thin air. The US attempt to hype up “China threat” and tarnish China’s reputation is doomed to fail. 

The US side should abandon the Cold War mentality and ideological bias, stop groundless accusation and smearing against China, and do more to promote China-US relations. 

AFP: US regulators yesterday revoked the telecommunications license of Pacific Networks, saying that the company’s ownership by the Chinese government raised “significant national security and law enforcement risks”. Does the foreign ministry have any comment on that?

Zhao Lijian: I noted relevant reports and would refer you to competent authorities of China for the specifics.

In principle, I want to point out that the US, without providing any facts about offense, revoked the Chinese company’s license in the US with the excuse of “national security” again. This flagrant abuse of the national security concept and the use of state power to hobble Chinese companies gravely undermine international trade rules and hurt the legitimate rights and interests of consumers, including American users. The Chinese government supports relevant companies in defending their interests in accordance with law, and will continue to take necessary measures to resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies.

Bloomberg: The German newspaper Bild says that Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov tried to fly to Beijing recently, but his plane turned around halfway. Did China invite Lavrov to Beijing and is this report accurate?

Zhao Lijian: You’d better ask the German newspaper where it got the information.

Reuters: The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague delivered a binding order saying the Russia must immediately suspend military operations in Ukraine. What’s the Chinese government’s comment? 

Zhao Lijian: China has noted the ICJ’s provisional measures based on the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. China will not comment on the specifics as the judges perform their duties independently. In fact, apart from Chinese and Russian judges, four judges have released their declaration or separate opinion on the Order. A judge noted explicitly that he was in favor of the Order indicating provisional measures due to the current situation in Ukraine and the suffering of the people, instead of the legality.

China’s position on the Ukraine issue is consistent. We support Russia and Ukraine in continuing to properly resolve the relevant issues through negotiation and consultation, and the international community in playing an active role in peacefully settling disputes. All parties should avoid making the issue more complicated.

Bloomberg: The former head of Britain’s foreign intelligence service said that only Xi Jinping can influence Putin and stop the war in Ukraine. Has Xi been speaking to Putin about the war? What have those conversations been about if that happened? 

Zhao Lijian: I noted the relevant remarks. China has been promoting dialogue for peace and making efforts for peacefully resolving the Ukraine crisis. Such efforts include the phone calls and personal efforts made by President Xi Jinping with leaders of relevant countries. China will continue to play a constructive role in the Ukraine issue. However, it takes the one who started the issue to resolve it. I want to stress that those who caused the Ukraine crisis should reflect on the roles they have played, earnestly shoulder their due responsibilities, take concrete actions to ease the situation and solve the problem, instead of shifting the blame onto others.

Reuters: Just now you said that Chinese President Xi Jinping has had phone calls with his counterparts. How many times has Xi spoken to Vladimir Putin recently? How many times has he spoken to the President of Ukraine recently?

Zhao Lijian: We have released readouts on President Xi Jinping’s phone conversations with leaders in a timely manner. 

China will continue to promote peace talks and play its due role in the Ukraine issue. I would like to emphasize that China is a major country with the most laudable record and credibility when it comes to peace and security. Any attempt to deny China’s efforts and distort China’s intention is irresponsible. We hope relevant sides can help to ease the situation in Ukraine in real earnest, rather than willfully spread disinformation to shift blames, instigate confrontation and reap profit from the situation. 

I have a few question for you to ponder. The US claimed to defend peace by working on NATO’s five waves of eastward expansion. Is peace achieved? It said it was to prevent war in Europe. Is war averted? It advertised its commitment to a peaceful settlement of the crisis. But from providing military aid to beefing up military deterrence, did it do anything good for peace?

China always independently decides its position and policies based on the merit of the matter itself. We welcome all diplomatic efforts conducive to the political settlement of the Ukraine issue, and support Russia and Ukraine in conducting dialogue and negotiation to seek a political settlement that accommodates both sides’ legitimate concerns and is good for lasting stability and security in Europe. China will continue to play a constructive role in seeking and achieving peace and development.

Follow-up: Since there hasn’t been so much information about calls between Xi and Zelenskyy lately, does that mean that Xi hasn’t spoken to Zelenskyy very much lately?

Zhao Lijian: You are right. I hope you can pay closer attention to the information released by our Foreign Ministry. The foreign ministers of China and Ukraine spoke on the phone. We have already released the information, but there was no phone conversation between the two heads of state.

Follow-up: Does China plan on speaking to President Zelenskyy?

Zhao Lijian: I have no information to offer at this point.

Reuters: According to the UN Charter which China has signed up to, Article 2, Principle 3, “All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.” Article 2, Principle 4, “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.” Does China believe that Russia’s actions in Ukraine adhere to this?

Zhao Lijian: We have answered similar questions many times at this podium.

China’s position on the Ukraine issue is aboveboard, objective, fair and constructive. Our aim is clear: to work for deescalation and end the conflict as soon as possible. We believe that China’s position will be understood and supported by more and more countries. China’s position conforms to the common interests of relevant parties and other countries in the world and can stand the test of history.

Reuters: The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the fact that China hasn’t pronounced itself against Russia’s aggression is totally inconsistent with what China repeats over and over again about the sanctity of the UN Charter and basic principles in terms of the sovereignty of nations. What’s China’s comment?

Zhao Lijian: We noted Secretary Blinken also claimed that “China is already on the wrong side of history” in his statement. Such smear against China fully exposes the US’ Cold War mentality featuring bloc confrontation. China is firmly opposed to such remarks that do no good to solving the problem.

On the Ukraine issue, China has been independently making its judgment based on the merits of the matter itself in an objective and just manner. The Chinese side always maintains that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries must be respected, and the purposes and principles of the UN Charter must be observed. We attach importance to the security concerns of all countries and support all efforts that are conducive to peaceful resolution of the crisis. As a responsible major country, China will continue to play a constructive role in maintaining world peace and stability.

International media lately mentioned many times that George Kennan, former US ambassador to the Soviet Union, suggested to the US government in the 1990s that expanding NATO up to Russia’s borders would be the most fateful error of American policy. Many well-known experts on international relations across the world have also made such advice. Regrettably, the US government turned a deaf ear to this, and was bent on advancing NATO’s eastward expansion, for five times already. The US’ decision on NATO’s eastward expansion is directly linked to the Ukraine crisis now. I read a report the other day that Tulsi Gabbard, former member of the US House of Representatives, said the crisis could have been ended and the war easily avoided if the US had simply promised not to accept Ukraine’s becoming a member of NATO. But they chose not to do so.

The key to solving the Ukraine crisis is in the hands of the US and NATO. We hope the US and NATO, the culprits of the crisis, can reflect upon their roles in the Ukraine crisis. They should earnestly shoulder due responsibilities and take real actions to ease the situation, resolve the problem and end the conflict in Ukraine at an early date. We also hope that the US can truly work with most developing countries in the world to stand on the side of peace and justice and help to ease the Ukraine situation soon.

Reuters: A few weeks ago, your colleague noted that according to the Russian defense ministry, Russia was only targeting military targets in Ukraine. Reports have emerged that civilians have been targeted in a number of areas. For example, there were reports saying civilians waiting in line for bread were killed in a city close to the capital. What’s the Chinese government’s position on civilians being targeted in this war?

Zhao Lijian: You didn’t follow me when I was taking previous questions, did you? I just spoke at length about our statements on the Ukrainian civilians and I’m not going to repeat over and over. 

Bloomberg: Can I just follow on what we asked earlier? China’s ambassador to Ukraine said that China would never attack Ukraine. Does that mean China will not supply Russia with weapons or other assistance that could be used to attack Ukraine?

Zhao Lijian: Is this your own interpretation? China has made statements on this on multiple occasions. Such association has no grounds whatsoever.

The following question was raised after the press conference.

Q: According to reports, a magnitude 7.3 earthquake jolted Japan’s northeast coast off the Fukushima prefecture on March 16, leaving four dead and 97 injured and triggering a tsunami advisory. What is China’s comment? Are there any Chinese casualties?

Zhao Lijian: A powerful earthquake struck waters near Japan’s Fukushima prefecture last night. We mourn for the victims, and express our condolences to the bereaved families and the wounded. The Chinese Embassy in Japan, the Consulate General in Niigata and the Consulate General in Sapporo immediately activated the emergency response mechanism and urgently checked the situation and verified relevant information. We have received no report of Chinese casualties so far. Our Foreign Ministry and the diplomatic missions in Japan will continue to closely follow the situation of the aftermath of the earthquake and the aftershocks, and will provide necessary assistance for Chinese citizens in Japan on a timely basis.

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