China has used diplomatic channels to express its strong dissatisfaction at Japan's attempt to sensationalize Chinese research activities near Diaoyu Islands.
The Foreign Ministry lodged formal representations with the Japanese Embassy in Beijing yesterday, reiterating the position that Chinese sovereign over Diaoyu Islands is indisputable and can be traced back to ancient times.
"China will not accept any representations from the Japanese side claiming that Diaoyu Islands are Japan's territory," ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said at yesterday's regular news briefing.
Reports quoted Japan as saying a Chinese ship was spotted early on Sunday carrying out research in what Tokyo considers to be its territorial waters in the East China Sea and lodged a protest with the Chinese Embassy.
"Normal maritime research carried out by a Chinese vessel means China is justly exercising its legitimate sovereign rights," Jiang said, noting this did not fall under the aegis of a six-year-old agreement under which each side notifies the other in advance of any activities in the region.
Jiang also denied a report by a Hong Kong newspaper that the Chunxiao gasfield in the East China Sea had entered production, supplying the coastal cities of Ningbo and Shaoxing.
"The reports do not comply with the facts," said Jiang, "and I am willing to emphasize once again that China's oil and gas exploration in the East China Sea is conducted in the undisputed continental shelves of China and it is a legitimate development activity."
She admitted that China and Japan have demarcation disputes for the East China Sea, but reiterated Beijing's determination to solve these through negotiations.
The two East Asian powerhouses have held six rounds of talks to this end and have agreed to maintain the consultation process in the future.
Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing will travel to Japan next Thursday with his two-day trip widely believed to be paving the way for a visit by Premier Wen Jiabao in April.
During Li's trip to Japan, he will meet with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso, with the rest of timetable still under discussion, Jiang said. Li's last visit to Japan was in August 2003.
Before flying to Tokyo, Li will travel to India on Sunday for four-day tour to the country. During his stay, he will meet Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, and pay a visit to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Li will further attend the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of India-China-Russia to be held in New Delhi next Wednesday.
"The foreign ministers of the three countries will discuss economic cooperation and such talks will help the three sides to expand their common understandings and push forward the trilateral beneficial cooperation," Jiang said.
In the last two years, the three foreign ministers have so far met upon three occasions on the sidelines of other international events. This will be their first structured ministerial meeting.
Six-party nuclear talks
Jiang announced the renewed six-party talks on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue would focus on initial steps for implementing the joint statement reached in September 2005, under which North Korea would abandon its nuclear program in exchange for economic aid and security guarantees.
"The new phase of the six-party talks will officially start on Thursday afternoon," she announced.
"Apart from plenary sessions, negotiators will hold group meetings and one-on-one talks," Jiang said, adding that as host, China calls upon all parties to work together to produce positive results.
The last phase of the talks ended in December last year after five days of negotiations that unfortunately saw no breakthrough.
Launched in 2003, the talks involve China, the US, Japan, Russia, North and South Korea.
In another development, Jiang said "China and North Korea have a plethora of effective border control practices," with border cases always being properly resolved. She was responding to the reported flight into China of 20 North Korean border guards.
China and North Korea are committed to developing good relations, opposing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and creating a denuclearized Korean Peninsula, Jiang said.
China and North Korea enjoy normal trade relations, she said, with bilateral trade reaching US$1.53 billion from January-November period of 2006, up 5.5 percent year-on-year.
No Sino-US space cooperation
China and the US currently have no specific cooperation project in terms of space research, Jiang said.
She revealed that the heads of the China and US space agencies had agreed to annual meetings, aiming to discuss bilateral space cooperation, during a visit last September by Michael Griffin, administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
During the visit, Sun Laiyan, administrator of the China National Space Administration, and Griffin agreed to a Chinese four-point proposal to boost cooperation.
China has always supported the peaceful use of space and stands against any weapons in space, Jiang said, responding to a question on China's recent anti-satellite space test.
Following the test, the US has announced it intends to rethink any future possible space cooperation with China.
Relatively low defense spending
Jiang stated that China's defense expenditure is "relatively low" when compared with other countries.
"Compared with other countries, China's defense expenditure remains at a relatively low level in the world regarding its total amount, its ratio in GNP and per capita expenditure," she said.
"The Chinese government has always attached importance to controlling the scale of its defense expenditure," she noted.
China's defense expenditure in 2004 stood at 220 billion yuan (US$28.3 billion), an annual growth of 15.31 percent. This increase was matched by a 12.5 percent rise in 2005 to reach 247.49 billion yuan (US$31.9 billion) with the total 2006 budget reaching 283.83 billion yuan (US$36.6 billion).
According to a White Paper on China's National Defense issued at the end of 2006, China's defense expenditure in 2005 equaled 6.19 percent of that of the US, 52.95 percent of the UK's, 67.52 percent of Japan's and 71.45 percent of France's.
Costs per unit were also compared with China's spending per serviceman averaging 107,607 yuan (US$13,872), amounting to 3.74 percent as compared to the US and 7.07 percent of Japan's expenditure, the white paper revealed.
Cutting greenhouse gases
Jiang said that developed countries must lead the way in the slashing of greenhouse gas emissions.
Commenting on a recent report on global warming issued by UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, she said: "The key issue of the current international negotiations on climate change is that developed countries must continue to take the lead in cutting emission of greenhouse gases and take concrete measures in this regard, as required by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol."
The UN report, compiled from research by over 1,200 world-renowned scientists, says ever-increasing droughts, heat waves, torrential rains and a slow rise in sea levels could last for over 1,000 years.
The "very likely" involvement of humans, resulting from the burning of fossil fuels, stands at a 90 percent certainty, says the report.
"It should be noted that the climate change is resulted from the long-time emissions by developed countries in history and local high per capita emissions, and developed countries have the responsibilities that can not be shirked for it," Jiang said.
She said developing countries have very low emissions, leaving little room for emission cuts.
"China is willing, in accordance with its strategy of sustainable development, to make contributions within its capacity to the solutions of climate change," she added.
Jiang said the Chinese government attaches great importance to environmental protection and has made it a fundamental national policy, adding in recent years China has taken a series of effective measures in protecting environment and made notable achievements.
The measures included adjusting the structures of industries and energy, planting more trees, controlling growth of population, making laws on environmental protection, and popularizing knowledge of environmental protection.
In its 11th five-year plan issued last March, China set lofty goals in controlling emissions of greenhouse gases and reducing reduction in energy consumption by 20 percent per 10,000 yuan (US$1,289) of GDP in the 2006-10 period.
In a major step in the country's fight to lower emissions, on January 29, Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan announced the closure of small power-generating units reaching an annual capacity of 50 million kilowatts over the next four years.
Small power-generating units nationwide consume 400 million tons of coal while releasing 5.4 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere for a production total of 115 million kilowatts a year.
"These goals are very challenging, but China is willing to strengthen cooperation with the international community to realize them, in a bid to make new contribution to international climate change," said Jiang.
She said China considers both the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol as an effective legal framework to guide climate change efforts by the for international community, adding that the world should deepen cooperation under this framework.
In responding to whether China will support the creation of a new UN environmental body against global warming as suggested by French President Jacques Chirac, Jiang said China supports international cooperation on environmental protection and related multi-lateral mechanisms to this end.
"China holds that the international community should study on related suggestions to form a plan that is acceptable to all sides," she noted.
(China Daily, Xinhua News Agency February 7, 2007)