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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying's Regular Press Conference on December 19, 2016


At the invitation of the government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, State Councilor Yang Jiechi will visit the UK and co-host the 8th China-UK Strategic Dialogue with Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson from December 19 to 21.

Apart from co-hosting the 8th China-UK Strategic Dialogue with Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson, State Councilor Yang Jiechi will also meet with Prime Minister Theresa May and other British leaders, exchanging views on the bilateral relationship as well as international and regional issues of common interest.

The China-UK relationship has been developing with a sound momentum. President Xi Jinping's historic state visit to the UK last year has led the bilateral relationship to a new stage of growth. On September 5, President Xi Jinping met with Prime Minister May who was in China for the G20 Hangzhou Summit, which is the first meeting between the two leaders following the formation of the new British government. The two sides reaffirmed that the bilateral relationship is heading to a golden era, setting the course for the development of China-UK relationship in the coming years. Next year, we will celebrate the 45th anniversary of the establishment of the ambassadorial-level diplomatic relations between China and the UK. The Chinese side is ready to work with the British side to deepen political mutual trust, enhance pragmatic cooperation in different fields, strengthen coordination in international affairs and push for the sustained, sound and steady growth of the global comprehensive strategic partnership between China and the UK for the 21st century based on mutual respect and equal treatment.

The complex international landscape, the sluggish recovery of world economy and various challenges faced by global governance all yearn for a joint response from the international community. As two influential countries in the world, it is imperative for China and the UK to step up strategic communication and dialogue.

Q: I have a question about the underwater drone issue. The Chinese side claimed to have been having talks with the US and pledged to hand back the drone. Do you know where the drone is? When will it be handed back? How will the hand-over happen?

A: The Defence Ministry spokesperson has already answered questions on this issue. The Chinese and American sides are in smooth communication on this issue via the military-to-military channel in a bid to properly handle it.

I would refer you to the press bureau of the Defence Ministry for details.

Q: Firstly, it is said that the reason why China seized the unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) was that it threatened the security of China's nuclear submarines. Can you confirm and give us more details? Secondly, US President-elect Donald Trump said on Twitter after the incident took place that China stole United States Navy research drone in unprecedented act, and that let China keep the drone. How do you respond to that?

A: There have been abundant comments from various parties on remarks made by US President-elect Trump on Twitter. I will not add to them.

You will find all the details you need concerning the UUV seized by the Chinese Navy, if you read closely the statement made by the spokesperson of the Defence Ministry. An unidentified device was discovered by a lifeboat of the Chinese Navy in waters of the South China Sea. In order to prevent this device from posing danger to the safe navigation of passing ships and personnel, the Chinese side checked and verified the device in a professional and responsible attitude. After identifying the device as a UUV from the US, the Chinese side decided to hand it over to the US side in an appropriate manner. It is learnt that the two sides are in smooth communication through the military-to-military channel, which will definitely lead to a proper settlement of this issue.

Follow-up: The Chinese state media said that the Chinese side is restrained in its response to Trump's remarks, only because Trump is yet to become the president. Will China act differently if Trump keeps making such kind of remarks after taking office?

A: I do not answer hypothetical questions. My colleague also said before that we pay more attention to the words, deeds and policies of the government.

Q: US President Obama advised President-elect Trump to be deliberate when making any change to the one-China policy, as the Taiwan question is crucial to China. Changing the one-China policy may push China to make significant response and he has to think through what the consequences are. We also noticed that German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop all reaffirmed their commitment to the one-China principle. Do you have any response to this?

A: The one-China principle is a widely recognized consensus of the international community, and also the precondition and foundation for China to develop ties with other countries.

The Taiwan question bears on China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and concerns China’s core interests. It is the most important and sensitive part in China-US relations. We hope that the relevant US party can fully understand the extreme importance and sensitivity of the Taiwan question, abide by the one-China policy and honor its commitment in the three joint China-US communiqués and handle Taiwan-related issues in a deliberate and proper way.

Q: Philippine President Duterte told the press on December 17 that he would set aside the South China Sea arbitration, not impose anything on China and not intend to fight China. What is your response?

A: China welcomes and appreciates the remarks by President Duterte, whose policy on the South China Sea arbitration meets the fundamental interests of the two countries and two peoples and exemplifies the increasingly deepened mutual trust and amicable relations between the two.

Ever since President Duterte’s successful visit to China last October, China-Philippines relations have improved across the board and moved forward. Bilateral mutual trust keeps building up and pragmatic cooperation in various fields runs in full fledge with fruitful results. China is willing to work with the Philippines to enhance political mutual trust, properly handle the South China Sea issue and realize common development.

Q: How would you describe the US handling of this issue from a foreign policy perspective?

A: If you read through the statement by the Defence Ministry spokesperson, you can sense that what is important is that the two sides stay in close communication via the military-to-military channel after what has happened. We believe that the communication will lead to a proper settlement of the issue.

As was pointed out by the Defence Ministry spokesperson, the Chinese side is firmly opposed to the frequent appearance of US military aircraft and vessels in waters facing China for close-in reconnaissance and military surveys. We require the US side to stop such activities. The Chinese side will stay vigilant about that.

Q: Do you have any update on what has happened to Singapore's armored personnel carriers that were seized by the Hong Kong customs for inspection?

A: I have no update to offer. We have said before that the Hong Kong SAR government will handle the issue in accordance with relevant laws and regulations of the SAR.

Q: You previously said that the US has been conducting reconnaissance missions in the South China Sea. Do you believe that this drone was spying on China?

A: US military aircraft and vessels have been conducting close-in reconnaissance and military surveys in waters facing China, posing threat to China's sovereignty and security. The Chinese side is firmly opposed to that. As for what the drone was doing at that moment, you'd better raise this question with the US military.

Q: You said that China opposes and does not like these activities by US naval and air assets. Is it China's view that these activities are illegal?

A: We have made clear our opposition to the close-in reconnaissance and military surveys by US military aircraft and vessels in waters facing China, because those activities threaten China's sovereignty and security.

Q: It is reported that coast guards of China and the Philippines held the first preparatory meeting of the joint committee on maritime cooperation, and discussed possible maritime cooperation projects and temporary arrangement on a hot-line mechanism between the two coast guards. Do you have more details? How do you comment on this meeting?

A: China and the Philippines reached consensus on coast guard cooperation when President Duterte visited China in October. Under the witness of the two leaders, coast guards of the two countries signed an MOU on establishing a joint committee on maritime cooperation.

Coast guards of the two countries held the first preparatory meeting in Manila the other day with a purpose to follow through on the relevant consensus and MOU. The two sides achieved positive outcomes and issued a joint press release, agreeing to hold the second preparatory meeting and the first meeting of the joint committee in February, 2017 in the Philippines.

Coast guard cooperation between China and the Philippines is a reflection of the strengthened dialogue and cooperation between the two countries. It is conducive to deepening mutual trust and enhancing friendship. China highly commends that and expects relevant cooperation to bring new momentum to the continuous, sound and steady development of bilateral ties.

Q: Can you confirm that the drone has not yet been returned?

A: What I can tell you is that the Chinese and US military are communicating with each other about the transfer of the UUV. We believe this issue will be properly handled.

Q: Chinese shops in some cities of Venezuela were affected by looting after the Venezuelan government pulled its largest banknote from circulation. Are there Chinese citizens hurt and killed? How do you view the current situation in Venezuela and are you concerned that China-Venezuela relations may be compromised by this?

A: The Chinese Embassy in Venezuela activated the emergency response mechanism right after the incident. They have issued safety warnings, checked the security and property losses of Chinese citizens and businessmen, and contacted the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry and other government departments, asking them to pay attention to this and make effective efforts to maintain and restore social order and safeguard the life and property of Chinese citizens. The Venezuelan side took China’s requirement seriously and made expeditious moves. The situation in Venezuela has subsided. The Chinese Embassy in Venezuela hasn’t received any report of Chinese citizens being injured or killed up to now.

China follows closely the situation in Venezuela. As a friendly country to Venezuela, we believe that its government and people are capable of handling domestic affairs and maintain national stability and development. China attaches great importance to its relations with Venezuela and stands ready to continue with all-round exchanges and cooperation with Venezuela for mutual benefit.

Q: With regard to what was addressed by US President-elect Trump as "stealing", Chinese Defence Ministry spokesperson said that it was verification, but stopped short of explaining how the device was taken away. Some media reports used the word "seize", some said "pull". Which one is proper?

A: We do not feel like the word "steal" which is totally inaccurate.

You can get the details or the whole picture of the issue after reading through the statement by Defence Ministry spokesperson. A Chinese Navy lifeboat discovered an unknown device in the South China Sea, and checked and verified the device in a professional and responsible attitude.

You are particularly interested in how the device was taken away. But for me, what matters is that the Chinese Navy conducted responsible and professional verification for the purpose of preventing the device from endangering the navigation of passing ships and personnel. After identifying the device as an American UUV, the Chinese side decided to transfer it to the US through appropriate means.

Just think about it. If somebody dropped his belonging on the street and you found it afterwards, before giving it back to the claimant, you would have to check and verify whether or not he was the owner. That's not difficult to understand, right?

Q: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed once again the wish of Japan becoming a permanent member to the Security Council at the conference marking the 60th anniversary of Japan's accession to the UN. What is China's comment on that?

A: I did not see the report. The UN is a major outcome of the victory of the World Anti-Fascist War. Any country who wishes to play a bigger role in the UN Security Council should respect and recognize the fruits of the victory of the World Anti-Fascist War.

Q: I have a question about State Councilor Yang Jiechi's visit to Britain. Is the issue of Brexit going to be on top of his agenda? What message will he bring from the Chinese government to the British government about Brexit? What concerns the Chinese government may have on this?

A: As I said, State Councilor Yang Jiechi will travel to the UK for the Strategic Dialogue. The two sides will have in-depth discussions on the bilateral relationship as well as international and regional issues of common interest.

Brexit is an issue between the UK and the EU. We hope that an agreement can be reached by the two sides at an early date through relevant negotiation. On the Chinese part, we regard the UK as a major country of international clout. We hope to move forward the bilateral relationship and strengthen our communication and cooperation in international affairs together with the British side.

Q: What is China's comment on memorial events on the passing of Kim Jong Il held by the DPRK?

A: We understand that the DPRK held a range of activities to commemorate the 5th anniversary of the passing of Comrade Kim Jong Il. The Chinese Ambassador to the DPRK attended relevant activities in Pyongyang upon invitation.

China and the DPRK are friendly neighbors. The Chinese side values its friendly and cooperative relationship with the DPRK and hopes to maintain the sound and steady growth of the bilateral relationship through concerted efforts with the DPRK.

Q: You mentioned that if you find something on the street, you need to check and verify. But if you see something falling out of somebody's pocket, you know who it belongs to. Are you saying that the Chinese Navy did not know that this was a piece of the US equipment when they picked it up?

A: I cannot see where your point is. Are you implying that the South China Sea is a possession of the US?!

Q: According to the Pentagon, there was communication between the Chinese and US ships at the location. The US ship said to the Chinese ship that it was our equipment, but the Chinese ship just left with the piece of equipment. Is that also your understanding of how things happened?

A: I do hope that the Chinese Defence Ministry had a press conference today so that you can ask them for details and authoritative answers. It is an informative statement given by the Defence Ministry spokesperson on December 17. If you read it closely, you will find some keywords, like it was "an unknown device", so it had to go through "investigation and verification". Only after the "investigation and verification" was it verified as a UUV from the US. Therefore, "the Chinese side decided to hand it over to the US side through appropriate means". It is rather clear.

Q: It has been more than one year since the big explosion in a chemical industry in Tianjin. What did China learn from this accident? Do you see any improvement both in China and the rest of the world in the safety environment of industrial devises?

A: I appreciate that you care about the explosion accident in Tianjin, but I have no information on that. I would refer you to the competent authorities.

Q: US President-elect Trump previously questioned the one-China policy. But one of his aides said recently that since Trump is yet to assume the office, what he said does not mean that he is going to revisit the one-China policy upheld by the US right now. What is your comment on that? Do you think that the Trump team has somehow softened its position on the one-China policy?

A: I have already answered the question. Widely recognized by the international community, the one-China principle is the prerequisite and basis for the development of relations between China and other countries. The Taiwan question bears on China's sovereignty and territorial integrity. It is related to China's core interests, and remains a very sensitive and important issue in China-US relations. We hope that the US side will fully recognize the importance and sensitivity of the Taiwan question, uphold the one-China policy, abide by its commitment in the three joint communiqués and deal with Taiwan-related issues with prudence.

Q: The UN Security Council held a closed-door negotiation on a France-drafted resolution on sending international observers to monitor the evacuation in Aleppo and report work of protecting civilians. It is said that all parties had reached an agreement and would vote this evening. Please confirm. What is China’s stance on this resolution and how will China cast its vote?

A: China is following the humanitarian situation in Syria, and supports the UN in continuing to play a coordinating role in the humanitarian relief operations in Syria. The Security Council is discussing a France-drafted resolution on monitoring the humanitarian situation in Syria. China has taken a constructive part in the consultation based on a just and objective position, pushing all parties to work in unison, arrive at consensus and uphold unity and cooperation of the Security Council on the Syrian issue. As we speak, all parties have reached a primary agreement on the draft. China hopes that the Security Council members will continue with their efforts to ensure the adoption of the resolution based on consensus.

China maintains that the key to the fundamental ease of the Syrian humanitarian situation is to implement UN Resolution 2254 and make parallel efforts to realize a ceasefire, conduct political negotiation, carry out humanitarian aid and jointly fight terrorism. China will continue to play an active part in the political settlement of the Syrian issue and contribute constructively to peace and stability in Syria.

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