China on Thursday expressed its dissatisfaction with groundless remarks made by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who said during a recent campaign rally that China "boiled babies for fertilizer in Mao Zedong's era."
Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang yesterday urged Berlusconi, who is preparing for an April 9-10 election, to pay attention to his words and actions.
Remarks by an Italian leader should be beneficial to the stability and development of China-Italy relations, he added.
Turning to the Iranian nuclear issue, Qin said China expects the presidential statement adopted by the UN Security Council on Wednesday to help enhance the authority and role of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The statement calls on Iran to resume suspension of all uranium enrichment-related activities within 30 days.
Under present circumstances, there still exists the possibility of solving the nuclear standoff via diplomatic negotiations and the international community should not give up their efforts to this end, Qin said.
He urged all parties concerned to maintain restraint and to be patient, saying China is open to any suggestion that is conducive to the settlement of the issue.
From New York, China's UN Ambassador Wang Guangya said the statement sends a strong message in support of the authority of the IAEA and diplomatic resolution.
Foreign ministers from the five council members and Germany met in Berlin yesterday to discuss their strategy on Iran.
Turning to Japan, Qin said the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea have been Chinese territory since ancient times based on "indisputable legal grounds."
"This is China's solemn position," he noted.
He made the remarks after the Japanese government said it had ordered school textbook publishers to state clearly in their texts that the islands are part of Japanese territory.
China-Japan relations are at their worst because of Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's repeated visits to the Yasukuni Shrine that honors WW II war criminals.
However, Japanese people on the whole seem keen on harmonious relations with China. According to a survey released by the Japanese Foreign Ministry on Wednesday, an overwhelming 77.9 percent of respondents said bilateral ties should be improved.
President Hu Jintao will meet today with the heads of seven Japan-China friendship organizations including former Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, who arrived in Beijing yesterday for their first joint visit to China.
"The visit signifies the positive attitude China has to promoting Sino-Japanese friendly exchanges and cooperation," Qin said.
The seven organizations are the Japanese Council for the Promotion of International Trade, Association of Dietmen League for Japan-China Friendship, Japan-China Friendship Association, Japan-China Cultural Exchange Association, Japan-China Association on Economy and Trade, Japan-China Society, and Japan-China Friendship Center.
In reply to a reporter's question about the Pope's desire to visit China in 2008, Qin urged the Vatican to take steps necessary to improving its relations with China.
"China has noticed the report and is always positive and sincere about developing ties with the Vatican. However, two basic conditions apply," he said.
He stressed that the Vatican should, first of all, sever its "diplomatic relations" with Taiwan and second, promise not to interfere in China's internal affairs, including any intervention on the pretext of religious activities.
Turning to China-US trade relations, Qin said senior officials from both sides are expected to discuss their respective concerns on trade and business during a meeting of the Sino-US Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) scheduled for next week in Washington.
Vice Premier Wu Yi will leave for the US on April 3. She will co-chair the 17th meeting of the JCCT with US Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, and Trade Representative Rob Portman.
Wu and Gutierrez vowed during their meeting in Beijing earlier this week to improve bilateral trade and economic ties in a bid to create a "positive atmosphere" for the upcoming meeting between Hu and US President George W. Bush in Washington next month.
China-US trade hit US$212 billion last year. China has become the fourth largest export market and the third largest trade partner of the US.
In other announcements, Qin said Vice President Zeng Qinghong will attend the annual meeting of the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) scheduled for April 21 to 23 in south China's island province of Hainan.
Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh will visit China from April 5 to 10 at the invitation of President Hu.
(China Daily, Xinhua News Agency March 31, 2006)