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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hong Lei's Regular Press Conference on May 16, 2016

At the invitation of Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship Susana Malcorra of the Republic of Argentina will pay an official visit to China from May 18 to 20.

Q: Unofficial results of the presidential election in the Philippines show that the sitting Mayor of Davao Rodrigo Duterte holds a large lead and is sure of success. Will the Chinese side express congratulations to him? What are China's expectations for the future of bilateral relations?

A: The Chinese side has noted the successful presidential election in the Philippines. We congratulate Mr. Duterte on winning the vote. The sound and steady growth of China-Philippine relations serves the fundamental interests of the two countries and meets the shared aspiration of the two peoples. The Chinese side attaches importance to developing relations with the Philippines, and stands ready to work alongside the new Philippine government to properly deal with relevant disputes through friendly dialogue and bring bilateral ties back to the track of sound development. It is hoped that the new Philippine government will join China with the same readiness and attitude.

Q: An annual report of the US Department of Defense to Congress last week said that China had increased its capability and force posture in areas close to the border with India. What is your comment on that?

A: The Chinese side is committed to safeguarding peace and tranquility of the border areas between China and India, and resolving the boundary question through negotiation with India. China and India are wise and capable enough to deal with this issue. It is hoped that other countries would respect efforts made by China and India for the peaceful settlement of dispute, rather than the opposite.

Q: Deputy Foreign Minister of Kuwait Al-Jarallah said on May 15 that the Kuwaiti government supports the stance on the South China Sea held by the Doha Declaration which was issued by the 7th ministerial meeting of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum (CASCF). The Kuwaiti side believes that China is dealing with the South China Sea issue with countries concerned through consultation in accordance with the principles of the UN Charter and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). He also said what was reported by the Japanese media about the position of Kuwait on the South China Sea was not true. According to a previous report by the Kyodo News Agency, when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with visiting Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber, the two sides agreed that China's attempts to change the status quo in the East and South China Seas were making the security situation in East Asia more severe. What is your comment?

A: We have noted a new practice in the Japanese diplomacy, that is to put words in other country's mouth. These "words" are stories full of lies, and are made up for the purpose of misleading the public. However, with the absence of credibility, these "words" would only become a laughingstock of others.

Q: First, Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro declared a 60-day state of emergency in the midst of economic crisis there. Is China considering providing any economic or financial assistance to Venezuela? Second, there have been some pro-independence activities in Hong Kong which called for Hong Kong's independence from China. What is China's response to this? Do you consider the idea of "Hong Kong independence" to be unconstitutional? Do those participating in the activities deserve to be prosecuted?

A: On your first question, since it is about the domestic affairs of Venezuela, the Chinese side has no comment. As a friend of Venezuela, we hope and believe that the government and people of Venezuela are able to handle their domestic affairs and maintain national stability and growth. China and Venezuela are comprehensive strategic partners of friendly relations. The two sides will continue with their pragmatic cooperation in different fields based on equity, mutual benefit and common development for the benefit of the two peoples.

On your second question, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) is an inalienable part of the People's Republic of China. The "Pearl of the Orient" has been back into the arms of the motherland since 1997. We will never be apart.

"Hong Kong independence" jeopardizes sovereignty and security of the country, as well as prosperity, stability and fundamental interests of Hong Kong. It is a grave breach of the Constitution, the Basic Law of the Hong Kong SAR and other existing laws and regulations. A small group of people's agitation for "Hong Kong independence" is doomed to failure as it goes against the will of the people. We believe that the Hong Kong SAR government will handle it in accordance with the law.

Q: The US, the ROK and Japan are going to hold their first trilateral military drills next month aimed at tracking DPRK's missiles. Do you have any comment on that?

A: The current situation on the Korean Peninsula remains complex and sensitive. We hope that all parties would keep calm and exercise restraint in the light of the situation, and refrain from actions that may escalate tensions. We call on all parties concerned to take seriously China's proposal of advancing in parallel the denuclearization of the Peninsula and replacement of the armistice treaty with a peace agreement, bring the Korean nuclear issue back to the track of dialogue and explore a feasible approach to realizing enduring peace and security on the Peninsula.

Q: The new Japanese Ambassador to China is an expert on China. What is China's expectation for him?

A: China-Japan relations, though improved, remain sensitive and fragile. We hope to see the new Japanese Ambassador play a positive role in further improving the bilateral relationship.

Q: The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) will meet in June. The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson previously called on NSG members to reach an agreement on the issue of non-NPT countries joining the body. Does China have a view on what are the criteria or standards that non-NPT countries should fulfill to join the group?

A: The NSG has its rules on accepting new members in both political and technical terms, one of which is that group members should be signatory states to the NPT.

The NSG is an important part of the international nuclear non-proliferation regime which is based on the cornerstone of the NPT. This consensus which has long been upheld by the international community was also reaffirmed at last year's NPT review session. Because of this, all the multilateral non-proliferation export control mechanisms, the NSG included, have been taking "NPT membership" as a necessary qualification for their acceptance of new members.

Many NSG members, China included, think that this matter shall be fully discussed and then decided based on consensus among all NSG members in accordance with the rules of the NSG. We support and have also taken a constructive part in recent discussions.

As we repeatedly said, our position targets no one. It applies to all non-NPT members. The reason why we and other like-minded NSG members are committed to this position is because we want to uphold the international nuclear non-proliferation regime based on the NPT.

Q: The US clarified that it backed India's case to become a full-fledged member of the NSG based on India's non-proliferation record. I would like to have your comment on that.

A: We have noted the report, and just now I have already gone into details about China's position.

After the press conference, a journalist asked: In its annual report to Congress outlining China's military and security developments, the US Defense Department expressed concerns about China's military strength, and said that China is fostering regional tensions in its pursuit of maritime sovereignty. Do you have any comment on that?

Hong Lei: The US report made unfounded accusations against the development of China's national defense as well as China's legitimate acts to safeguard territorial sovereignty and security interests. It is full of prejudice against China. The Chinese side is opposed to that, and has lodged solemn representations with the US side.

China sticks fast to the path of peaceful development and a defense policy that is defensive in nature. China is a staunch force for peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific and beyond. China advances national defense capabilities for the sake of national independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. It is a sovereign state's legitimate right.

China's position on the East and South China Seas is consistent and clear. We stay firmly committed to safeguarding our territorial sovereignty and maritime rights, and to peacefully resolving relevant disputes. The US, who has long been intensifying military presence in the South China Sea and the neighborhood and dispatching military ships and aircraft for the show of strength, is the major cause of tensions in the region.

The Chinese side noted that the report underlined the importance for the two sides to maintain a positive military-to-military relationship. It is hoped that the US would cast aside the Cold War mentality, adopt an objective and sensible view on the growth of China's military strength, and take concrete actions to ensure the steady development of the bilateral and military-to-military relations.

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