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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin’s Regular Press Conference on April 17, 2023

2023-04-17 21:17

AFP: The United States Navy has said that one of its warships sailed through the Taiwan Strait yesterday citing freedom of navigation in accordance with international law. Does the foreign ministry have any comments on this US warship’s transit?

Wang Wenbin: The spokesperson of the PLA Eastern Theater Command has stated our position. The US sends a military vessel to the Taiwan Strait to flex muscles, which poses a threat to China’s sovereignty and security and undermines regional peace and stability. China urges the US to immediately end such moves of violation and provocation and stop causing troubles for peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

People’s Daily: Yesterday marked the 31st anniversary of China’s participation in UN peacekeeping operations (UNPKOs) with its first formed military unit. As we speak, Chinese peacekeepers are undertaking UNPKOs in various countries such as South Sudan, Mali and Lebanon. Do you have any comment?

Wang Wenbin: Thirty-one years ago, at the invitation of the United Nations, China deployed an engineering unit to the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), which marked the first time that China dispatched its formed military unit of Blue Helmets to a UN Peacekeeping Operation. Over the past 31 years, China has sent more than 50,000 peacekeepers to nearly 30 UNPKOs in over 20 countries and regions. A total of 25 Chinese peacekeepers have made the ultimate sacrifice. Being the largest troop contributor to peacekeeping operations among the five permanent members of the Security Council and the second largest contributor to UN peacekeeping assessments, China has become a key actor in UNPKOs. 

From the Blue Line mined area along the Lebanon-Israel border to South Sudan, Mali and the DRC, the Chinese Blue Helmets have walked in harm’s way to safeguard world peace. They have been highly commended for their excellent performance, including receiving the UN Peace Medal of Honor several times. In war-ridden mission areas, Chinese military peacekeepers have dedicated their youth, hard work and even life and blood in exchange for peace. For example, from 2006 to early 2023, Chinese military peacekeepers disposed of over 15,000 landmines and unexploded ordnance in Lebanon, which has been widely commended by the Lebanese people and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. The Chinese medical units in the DRC ran a twinning project in SOS Children’s Village Bukavu to offer help, and children in the village called the female members their Chinese mothers. This love-filled program is still ongoing. UN Assistant Secretary-General Alexander Zuev commented that without the support of China and the Chinese people, the UN peacekeeping operations would not have achieved this much in recent years.

For China, to uphold the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, safeguard world peace and contribute to the building of a community with a shared future for mankind is our fundamental mission in being part of the UN peacekeeping operations. We will continue to practice true multilateralism, advance the Global Security Initiative and contribute China’s insights and efforts to reducing the peace deficit in the world and improving global security governance. 

Reuters: EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has said the EU-China relations depend on Beijing’s behavior. Do you have any comment on that?

Wang Wenbin: China and the EU share a wide range of common interests, with more cooperation than competition and more consensus than differences. The China-EU relationship is not targeted at, dependent on or subject to any third parties. The EU needs to further uphold strategic autonomy, have a more independent and objective perception of China and work with the Chinese side based on the principles of independence, mutual respect and mutually beneficial cooperation, so that China-EU relations can have greater global influence and provide more stability and positive energy to the international community.

I would also like to say that the Taiwan question is at the core of China’s core interests. I hope the EU will abide by the one-China principle and fulfill its solemn commitment of not maintaining official relations or concluding any agreement with Taiwan, which it made when establishing diplomatic relations with China, and truly safeguard peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and international justice. I hope the EU will oppose the provocation of “Taiwan independence” elements and dissuade certain politicians from ganging up and playing the Taiwan card.

CCTV: On April 15, the US State Department released its report on 2023 Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments, accusing China of lacking transparency with regard to its nuclear testing activities, pursuing an offensive biological weapons program, proliferating missile technology, among other things. What’s your comment?

Wang Wenbin: We have taken note of the report. Year after year, the US concocts the so-called report on Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments, exalting its own behavior and styling itself as a judge to wantonly criticize and smear other countries’ compliance record. We firmly reject this.

As a matter of fact, the US’s track record in arms control, disarmament and nonproliferation in recent years has been deplorable. In particular, it remains entrenched in the Cold War mentality, blatantly stokes major-power confrontation, pursues unrestrained military build-up and seeks absolute advantage in the field of security. This gravely undermines global and regional strategic stability, and impedes the international arms control, disarmament and nonproliferation process. When it comes to international obligations and multilateral rules, the US practices American exceptionalism and double standards, follows a selective approach dictated by selfish interests, constantly shifts the blame and shirks its responsibility, and even withdraws from treaties and organizations. This falls far short of what is expected of a major country.

It needs to be stressed that the US is merely chasing shadows and its accusations against China in this report are nothing but fabrications. In international arms control and nonproliferation, China is committed to multilateralism and has always upheld the international system with the UN at its core and the international order based on international law and faithfully fulfilled its international obligations and commitments. China has actively participated in the review process of the NPT, the BWC and the CWC, started the domestic procedure to ratify the UN’s Firearms Protocol, and promoted the negotiation process for a legal instrument on arms control in space. With these concrete steps, China has contributed insight and solution to upholding the international arms control and nonproliferation system and safeguarding world peace. 

We urge the US to stop its self-congratulatory, erroneous finger-pointing, take a long, hard look at its own behavior in arms control, disarmament and nonproliferation, and earnestly address the international community’s legitimate concerns over its compliance issue.

China Daily: According to reports, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told an interview with German media that she warned China during her visit against the use of force over Taiwan. Citing Baerbock’s remarks, the German foreign ministry said on social media that destabilization in the Taiwan Strait will have serious consequences for every country and the global economy. “The shock wave of such a world economic crisis would also hit China and Germany ... A unilateral and violent change in the status quo would not be acceptable to us as Europeans,” she added. Do you have any comment?

Wang Wenbin: When meeting the press with German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang made clear China’s position on the Taiwan question. I want to stress again that Taiwan’s return to China is an important part of the post-war international order. The real status quo of the Taiwan question is that both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to one and the same China. Taiwan is part of China. China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity has never been split. The Taiwan question is at the core of China’s core interests. Resolving the Taiwan question is a matter for the Chinese ourselves. No foreign forces should try to interfere in the Taiwan question or expect China to make any concession on issues concerning its sovereignty and territorial integrity under external pressure. 

The tensions in recent years in the Taiwan Strait are fundamentally caused by “Taiwan independence” separatists in Taiwan who are engaged in separatist activities with the support and connivance of foreign forces. “Taiwan independence” and cross-Strait peace and stability are as irreconcilable as fire and water. To keep the Taiwan Strait and the rest of the region peaceful and stable, it is essential to unequivocally oppose “Taiwan independence” and foreign interference. We urge relevant parties to respect history and facts, and hope that certain German politicians will have a correct understanding of the nature of the Taiwan question, earnestly abide by the one-China principle and stop making irresponsible remarks. 

AFP: Hong Kong bishop Stephen Chow is beginning an official visit to Beijing today, marking the first official visit by a Hong Kong bishop to the mainland since 1994. Does the foreign ministry have any comment on the bishop’s visit?

Wang Wenbin: This is not a question about foreign affairs.

Global Times: According to reports, the joint statement of the G7 Ministers’ Meeting on Climate, Energy and Environment issued on April 16 did not voice support for the Japanese government’s plan to discharge nuclear-contaminated water into the ocean. At the press conference, Nishimura Yasutoshi, Japan’s Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, said that the steady decommissioning progress including the release of treated water into the ocean “will be welcomed”. At the same event, Steffi Lemke, Germany’s Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection, responded that he respects the efforts made by the Japanese side after the Fukushima nuclear accident, “but we cannot welcome the release of the treated water”. What’s China’s comment? 

Wang Wenbin: For some time, the Japanese side has been ignoring the legitimate security concerns raised by the international community on the basis of science for political purposes, and has been trying to downplay and cover up the hazards of discharging the nuclear-contaminated water into the ocean by strengthening international public relations campaigns and rope other countries into supporting Japan’s discharge plan. Such attempts to whitewash its erroneous decision will lead nowhere.

China has noted that both the Japanese people and the international community have expressed strong concerns and opposition to Japan’s plan to discharge nuclear-contaminated water into the sea. The Japanese public has held many assemblies to protest against the discharge plan of the Japanese government. Recently, more than 30,000 netizens worldwide participated in a global survey conducted by CGTN within 24 hours. Among them, 93% strongly oppose Japan’s nuclear-contaminated water disposal plan. Up to 90% of the respondents say that they do not trust Japan’s statement that the treated water is safe. Up to 86% criticize Japan for not handling its nuclear-contaminated water in a science-based, open and transparent manner. Greenpeace issued a commentary on April 16, criticizing the Japanese government for violating international law including UNCLOS. It wrote that the Japanese government has failed to conduct a comprehensive environmental impact assessment, including the impact of transboundary marine pollution, adding that Japan is “using the Pacific Ocean as a dumping ground for radioactive contaminated water”.

All this clearly shows that the Japanese government will not win any support if it unilaterally decides to dump nuclear-contaminated water into the ocean, transferring the unpredictable risks to the whole world. China once again urges Japan to face up to international concerns, take due responsibilities, earnestly fulfill international obligations, have thorough and meaningful consultations with stakeholders including its neighbors, fully study and validate the best alternative to ocean discharge to ensure nuclear-contaminated water is handled in a scientific, open, transparent and safe manner, and fully submit to international oversight. Japan must not start discharging the nuclear-contaminated water into the ocean before reaching consensus through full consultation with neighboring countries and other stakeholders as well as relevant international agencies.

CCTV: On April 14 local time, the US government announced indictments and sanctions against Chinese companies and citizens involved in the trafficking of fentanyl precursor chemicals. What’s your comment?

Wang Wenbin: While saying it hopes to resume counternarcotics cooperation with China on various occasions, the US has again brazenly indicted and sanctioned Chinese individuals and entities, which is a serious violation of the lawful rights and interests of the companies and individuals concerned. China strongly condemns this and has made serious démarches to the US side.

The Chinese government takes a firm stance on counternarcotics. Guided by the humanitarian spirit, we have worked with the US to help solve its fentanyl abuse. In May 2019, China became the first country in the world to officially schedule fentanyl-related substances as a class, which played an important role in preventing the illicit manufacturing, trafficking and abuse of the substance. The US, however, in disregard of China’s goodwill, cited the non-existent human rights issue in Xinjiang to wantonly sanction the Institution of Forensic Science of the Ministry of Public Security and the National Narcotics Laboratory of China. Now the US is imposing new sanctions on Chinese companies and individuals and attempting to blame China for its own fentanyl problem. This has seriously eroded the foundation for China-US counternarcotics cooperation.

It must be pointed out that the US blames China for exporting “fentanyl precursors”, which are in fact only ordinary chemicals sold through normal trade. In international trade, it is the importer’s duty to prevent such chemicals from falling into the hands of illicit drug-makers. By twisting the truth, the US vilifies China’s normal trade of ordinary chemicals, trumps up a charge and slaps sanctions on Chinese companies and nationals. This is a classic case of US bullying and coercion. It is a flagrant defiance of international rule of law.

The US itself is the root cause of its drug problems. With 5% of the world’s population, the US consumes 80% of the world’s opioids. Yet the US still has not permanently scheduled fentanyl-related substances as a class. As China and the rest of the world strengthen control of fentanyl-related substances, the fentanyl issue in the US has been deteriorating and taking away even more lives. The US needs to do some serious reflections on this. Instead of working to reduce the demand for drugs at home, strengthen management of prescription drugs and step up public awareness campaigns about the harm of narcotics, the US has resorted to grossly sanctioning other countries in an attempt to mislead the public and deflect the blame for its inaction. This is clear to the American people and the rest of the world.

The US indictment and sanctions against Chinese companies and citizens will add more obstacles to China-US counternarcotics cooperation. Such moves hurt others as well as the US itself. If the US truly wants to solve its drug problem, it should respect facts, reflect on itself, correct its wrongdoing, and stop shifting the blame. China will continue to do what is necessary to safeguard the lawful rights and interests of Chinese companies and individuals.

NHK: The G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting opened in Japan. The ministers agreed they oppose China’s unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force and reaffirmed the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait. Do you have any response?

Wang Wenbin: There is but one China in the world, Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory, and the government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China. These are the core meaning of the one-China principle and the key to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. Relevant countries must recognize that the Taiwan question is China’s internal affair which brooks no external interference. Though the mainland and Taiwan have yet to reunify, they belong to one and the same China. Taiwan is part of China’s territory. China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity have never been divided. This is the true status quo in the Taiwan Strait. Taiwan’s return to China is an important component of the post-war international order. To uphold the one-China principle is to defend the post-war international order.

If one truly cares about the situation in the Taiwan Strait, one must first have a clear understanding of the root cause for the tensions there. As facts have proven once and again, a separatist agenda advanced at all costs by “Taiwan independence” elements in Taiwan with the support and connivance of foreign actors — this is what’s changing the status quo in the Taiwan Strait and the root cause of cross-Strait tensions. To maintain a stable situation across the Strait and safeguard peace and tranquility in the region, one must unequivocally uphold the one-China principle and oppose “Taiwan independence” separatist activities.

Those who say their one-China policy hasn’t changed, but wink at “Taiwan independence” separatists, overtly and covertly support them and even frame the opposition to such separatism as “changing the status quo” — they are not adhering to, but departing from the one-China policy and not defending, but endangering cross-Strait peace and stability. Their moves are irresponsible.

AFP: Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu had a meeting with Russian President Putin over the weekend. With Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine continuing into a second year, what is China’s reasoning for enhancing military ties with Moscow?

Wang Wenbin: As for the visit you mentioned, you may refer to the press release issued by the Ministry of National Defense.

On what you asked about China-Russia relations, I would like to reiterate that China and Russia are committed to the principles of no-alliance, no-confrontation and no-targeting of any third party and grow a new type of major-country relations featuring mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation. China is ready to work with Russia to fully implement the important consensus reached by the two heads of state and move forward our comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era.

You also mentioned the Ukraine issue. Our position on that is consistent and clear. We are firmly committed to promoting talks for peace and will continue to work with the international community to play a constructive role in the political settlement of the Ukraine crisis.

AFP: Australian police have said that an Australian businessman has been selling information about lithium mining in Australia to China. Does the foreign ministry have any details to add on this case?

Wang Wenbin: I’m not aware of what you mentioned. 

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