China joined the international aid effort in South and Southeast Asia on Tuesday -- a rescue mission that is set to become the world's biggest with the tsunami death toll in the tens of thousands.
The government and people of China have extended their sympathy to all the South and Southeast Asian countries for the losses they incurred from the devastating earthquake and tsunami, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said in Beijing Tuesday.
At a regular press conference, Liu said China is donating 21.6 million yuan (US$2.6 million) worth of emergency relief goods. The first batch of its relief goods, including tarpaulins, cotton blankets and medicine, was loaded for shipment to Sri Lanka Tuesday afternoon.
"More aid will be sent out to more countries over the coming days," Liu said.
A Chinese task force of 40 rescue and aid experts remains on standby to head to worst hit areas. "We have to see if those countries will submit such requests," Liu said.
"We learned from the Chinese Embassy in Bangkok that seven Chinese tourists were injured in the tremor," acknowledged Liu. "They are undergoing medical treatment on Phuket Island; some of them are in rather grave condition but none critically."
The government is very concerned with the safety of compatriots from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, who have been stranded in the tsunami-ravaged areas, Liu said. To date, he added, some residents from Taiwan have contacted personnel of Chinese consulates in Thailand for help with their travel documents.
Liu confirmed no other Chinese deaths except one from Taiwan.
According to the spokesman, Lee Teng-hui's trip to Japan dealt a serious blow to the political foundation of China-Japan relations.
The 81-year-old former Taiwan leader arrived in Japan Monday on a tourism visa. Regardless of the repeated solemn representations and firm opposition from China, the Japanese government issued the visa.
"China will closely follow the development of the situation," said Liu, and will reserve the right to take further action.
According to China News Service, Lee, the chief representative of the radical force for "Taiwan independence," is also planning to visit Japan next year during the cherry blossom season. It is said that Japan is very likely to issue another visa.
China solemnly asked Japan to consider the overall situation of China-Japan relations, and take effective measures to deal with the impact of the issue, said Liu.
Commenting on the presidential election in Ukraine, Liu said China and Ukraine are two friendly countries and China would respect the selection of the Ukrainian people.
Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko claimed victory Monday in Sunday's election.
Liu said China will make more contributions to world peace, common development and mutually beneficial cooperation in its diplomacy next year.
He said that this year's diplomatic work has created a favorable international environment for China's economic development and made contributions to maintaining world peace and promoting common development.
He said in the coming year, China will continue pushing forward win-win cooperation based on equality and trust, stabilize and develop its relations with developed countries and deepen and strengthen its unity and cooperation with developing nations while constantly improving its capabilities to deal with the changing international situation to serve China's social and economic development as well as reunification drive.
Liu said Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing will pay official visits to Lesotho, Seychelles, Madagascar and Mauritius.
He said that Li will pay official visits to the four countries from January 6 to 14, 2005.
Meanwhile, Liu noted, "as the special envoy of President Hu Jintao, Li will also attend the International Meeting for the Comprehensive Review of the Implementation of the Barbados Program of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, which is to be held in Mauritius."
(China Daily, Xinhua News Agency, CRI.com December 29, 2004)