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Foreign Minister Meets the Press

Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing Saturday afternoon addressed a wide range of issues when meeting some 500 journalists from home and abroad. The senior diplomat gave the press conference on the sideline of the on-going annual session of the Chinese legislature, the National People’s Congress, in Beijing.


China, US have expanded cooperation in both width and depth


Li, who served as Chinese Ambassador to the United States in Washington from 1998-2001, said no matter where he is, he is always a firm supporter of the friendly relations between China and the United States.


The development of healthy, stable and cooperative relations between China and the United States conforms to the common interests of the two countries and benefits global peace and development, he said.


"As time passes, the common interests between China and the United States - the biggest developing country and the biggest developed country - are actually on the increase rather than on the decrease," he said.


He said China and the United States have expanded their cooperation in both width and depth.


After the September 11 incident in the United States, China and the United States have stepped up their cooperation against terrorism and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, Li said.


The economic and trade exchanges have also grown markedly, he noted. the United States is one of China's biggest trading partners and more than 40,000 US firms are operating in China.


The exchanges in the cultural sector are also increasing. There are 60,000 Chinese students studying in the United States and about 4,000 US students are studying in China, Li said, adding that the Chinese language has become the third largest language in the United States.


"It is unimaginable that there are no difference between the two big countries," the foreign minister said. "If all countries in the world look completely the same, how boring it would be."


Li said the biggest difference between China and the United States lies in the Taiwan issue. "But there is an agreement between China and the United States, that is, the United States recognizes that there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is an inseparable part of China."


"As long as the two sides abide by the principles embodied in the three Sino-US Joint Communiques, the China-US relations would go forward healthily," he said.


Li said China attaches much importance and gives a high appraisal to the remarks made by US President Gorge W. Bush on Dec.9 last year, which were also expressed clearly by President Bush during his two meetings with Chinese President Hu Jintao.


On Sino-Japanese relations


Talking on Sino-Japanese relations, Li Zhaoxing said that Japanese leader's continuing visits to the notorious Yasukuni Shrine hurt the feelings of Chinese people, and stand in the way of normal Sino-Japanese relations.


He said the mainstream of Sino-Japanese relationship is good and there has been good progress in the communication and cooperation in all fields between the two countries.


The bilateral trade volume reached US$133.5 billion last year, he said. And the number of visitors exchanged reached 3 million. The two countries have also enhanced their coordination and cooperation in both regional and international affairs, the foreign minister noted, citing the most recent instance of the participation in the second round of six-party talks held in Beijing.


In the fight against SARS (the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) last year, China got the biggest material assistance from the Japanese government and people, Li added.


"But the most prominent issue in the bilateral relations, he said, is that the Japanese leaders insist on visiting the shrine that houses 14 Class-A World War II criminals and that has deeply hurt the feelings of the people of China and other Asian countries", Li pointed out.


He expressed the hope that Japanese leaders should show sincerity and do not be burdened down by historical issues. "The Japanese leaders should take history as a mirror and draw on lessons from history, and make up their minds to live in peace with other countries and treat each other as equals," he said.


He asked a Japanese correspondent to go back home and ask the Japanese leadership why it cannot do what some European countries can.


‘Hong Kong is China's Hong Kong’


Li Zhaoxing criticized some Hong Kong individuals' attempts to invite foreign interference into China's internal affairs regarding Hong Kong.


"Hong Kong is China's Hong Kong and China has the resolve, capability and wisdom to maintain stability and prosperity in Hong Kong," Li told a press conference on the sidelines of the annual session of the national legislature.


The minister made the remarks when asked to comment on Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Legislative Council member Martin Lee and two others planning to give evidence to a US Senate hearing on the issue of democracy of Hong Kong.


Li said China does not welcome or need any foreign interference in the issue, and it is useless for some specific persons to beg for foreign interference into the Hong Kong affairs.


On ‘illegal border crossers' and DPRK nuke issue


In response to a question raised by a correspondent from the Republic of Korea Li refuted reports of the existence of refugees from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) in China, saying these people are "illegal border crossers."


Li said, "These people you refer to are not refugees, but illegal border crossers."


China and the DPRK share a common border of some 1,300 km, and it is nothing strange to see some illegal border crossing between the two countries, said the minister.


The Chinese government can handle the issue well in accordance with domestic laws, international laws and the humanitarian principles, he added.


The minister said that China's method for handling the DPRK "illegal border crossers" has been highly praised by the international community.


He went on to accuse a few people of attempting to "politicize the issue" by confusing the concepts of "refugees" and "illegal border crossers" and even inciting those people to create political incidents such as forcing their way into foreign diplomatic institutions.


Asked about the China-ROK relations, Li said that specific matters concerning a proposed visit to the ROK by Chinese President Hu Jintao were under discussion between the two sides through diplomatic channels.


However, he disclosed next week he will extend an invitation to his ROK counterpart Yoon Young-kwan to visit China.


He went on to say that economic, trade and cultural links between China and the ROK are developing rapidly these years, while the two countries are carrying out good cooperation.


Moreover, Li also said China has little information about the alleged uranium enrichment program of the DPRK.


"We don't have as much information as you do about the alleged DPRK uranium program," Li told a Reuters reporter when asked to confirm the allegations.


"(Even) if your information is supported by evidence, that will have nothing to do with China," the minister added.


China has always advocated a nuclear-weapon-free Korean Peninsula, Li said, "We don't wish to see a Korean Peninsula with nuclear weapons, we wish to see a Korean Peninsula that is peaceful, stable and prosperous."


The role China plays in helping resolve the nuclear issue of the Korean Peninsula is "to promote peace talks and to make peace", said the minister.


He also expressed the hopes that all sides concerned in the six-party talks on the Korean nuclear issue could play a constructive role in having a peaceful solution to the issue through dialogue.


Unilateralism denounced


During the press conference, Li also denounced unilateralism, saying that multilateralism is an effective way to deal with common challenges for humanity, while unilateralism proves to be not popular.


"China supports multilateralism and is committed to multilateral cooperation," Li told a press conference on the sidelines of the annual session of the national legislature, the National People’s Congress.


Multilateralism is consistent with the spirit and purposes of the United Nations Charter.


"The reason the United Nations was founded and UN Charter was written is that the future matters in the world can not be dictated by one single country or a group of countries," he said.


The matters should be discussed by countries across the world, particularly by members of the United Nations, to find a solution, which is what the United Nations is all about, he added.


Li said multilateralism is an important means to resolve international disputes, and it is forceful promotion and guarantee for the benign development of globalization.


"It is also the best way to promote a democratic and law-based international relationship."


In the area of peace, China, India, Myanmar and other Asian countries put forward the Five-Principle of Peaceful Co-existence in their bids to promote peace in 1950s, which Li described as an outstanding contribution by Asian countries and Asian culture to the development of international relations in the right direction.


In the area of development, he said, China is the first country to formulate a country action plan on sustainable development.

Sino-Russia summit this year

Li announced at the press conference that Chinese and Russian presidents will hold a summit in Beijing in the latter half of this year.


Wu Bangguo, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, and Premier Wen Jiabao will also pay official visits to Russia this year, Li added.


China's Premier Wen Jiabao has sent a message to congratulate Mikhail Fradkov on his nomination as Russia's new prime minister.


During a meeting of the two presidents, the year 2004 was made the Year of Friendship between Young Peoples of Two Countries, Li said, adding that it will breathe new vitality into Sino-Russian relations.


The minister said it is a correct choice for the two nations to develop good relations from generation to generation and never become enemies to each other. He spoke highly of China's strategic partnership of cooperation with Russia.


China and Russia are the largest neighbors in the world and share a 4,300 km-long border. Over the past few years, the two countries have signed a series of agreements to strengthen friendly relations.


Confidence expressed in diplomacy


Commenting on Premier Wen Jiabao's confidence expressed in his government work report in China's diplomacy, the foreign minister said Wen's confidence is well grounded.


"We have won more understanding, trust, respect and support from the international community, and we enjoy higher status and greater influence in the international arena than ever before," Li quoted Wen as reporting to the lawmakers Friday.


Li said the China's diplomatic work is for all Chinese people and wins the support of the whole people.


With China's peaceful development, the Chinese people have become increasingly rich, which represents the greatest contribution to human progress, Li said.


Being engaged in diplomatic work is to provide services, Li said, adding that the services are targeted first at the China's lofty goal of building a well-off society in an all-round way and striving to create a good international and regional environment for China's economic construction.


"Another purpose is to make friends. The more the better," Li said.


Last year, China received 18 heads of state, 22 heads of government and 31 foreign ministers, and top Chinese leaders including President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao visited 22 nations, covering a total of distance of 166,000 km, Li said.


China's friendship with neighboring countries was brought into a new height and China's relations with big countries and developing countries were further expanded in the past year.


He said China has joined 135 international inter-governmental agencies and Chinese diplomats have been active in the international affairs, including the Iraq issue and the Korean nuclear issue.


(Xinhua News Agency March 6, 2003)

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