Foreign ministers of four central Asian nations will meet in Beijing early next month along with counterparts from China and Russia to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and the anti-terrorism war, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue announced yesterday.
The six nations, who comprise the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, have scheduled the meeting for January 7, Zhang said.
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are the other nations in the group.
The organization, formed in June to strengthen regional security cooperation, will focus on regional terrorism, extremism and separatist activities in addition to the situation in Afghanistan.
In related news from the press briefing, Zhang reacted to word that the United States may expand its campaign into Iraq by saying China supports the fight against terrorism but opposes arbitrary attacks.
Echoing United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Kofi Annan's remarks that any such move may harm the overall fight, Zhang said China hopes the US will follow the UN Charter and act only with proper evidence as per international law.
British Foreign Minister Peter Hain made similar comments on Sunday, noting that any military action against Iraq should be taken within a UN framework.
Turning to the problems in the Middle East, Zhang expressed regret over the Israeli decision to keep Palestinian President Yasser Arafat from making an annual pilgrimage to Bethlehem on Christmas Eve.
"The Israeli action is not conducive to the reduction of tension in the Middle East," she said.
Israel has prohibited Arafat from leaving his West Bank home until the Palestinian leader immediately arrests the suspected assassins of an Israeli cabinet minister.
Also at yesterday's briefing, Zhang said the government is seeking a further explanation from Japan on why its Maritime Safety Agency chased and fired at an unidentified ship in China's exclusive economic zone waters. The ship, of unknown national origin, sank.
"We are requesting the Japanese side to further brief us on relevant situations," Zhang said. "The Japanese side should fully respect China's rights, interests and concerns."
She pointed out that, although China and Japan differ over the boundaries of exclusive economic zones and continental shelf, the incident took place "on the Chinese side, out of the disputed areas."
"China is seriously concerned about the Japanese side employing arms while pursuing the boat," Zhang said.
(China Daily December 26, 2001)