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FM: Chinese Firms to Stay the Course in Africa
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The safety of Chinese personnel abroad is being "evaluated", the Foreign Ministry announced yesterday, but the fall-out from the Ethiopia attack would not affect Chinese investment and manpower influx into Africa.


Tuesday saw a pre-dawn attack by gunmen on a Chinese-run oil facility in Ethiopia, which left nine Chinese and 65 Ethiopians dead and seven Chinese abducted.


"The Chinese side is working to rescue the abducted Chinese workers," ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told a regular news conference. "At the same time, relevant departments are evaluating safety for Chinese companies investing overseas with a view to providing security guarantees for them."


The Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), a rebel group seeking independence for the Ogaden region of Ethiopia, which is home to ethnic Somalis, has claimed responsibility for the attack.


A London-based spokesman for the ONLF told Radio France Internationale that the group had no intention of holding the Chinese hostage, but gave no ransom demands or information on when they would be freed.


The names of the nine killed Chinese workers, age 27 to 40, were disclosed yesterday.


A Chinese taskforce dispatched to investigate the issue arrived in Ethiopia late on Wednesday to try to secure the release of the workers, Liu revealed, adding that the bodies of the victims were being returned and that the families had been notified.


China would not retract support for investment in Africa by domestic companies, Liu saying that this set policy would not waver. He did urge enterprises to improve safety awareness and to get security guarantees from the countries they invested in.


China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation (Sinopec), parent of the Zhongyuan Petroleum Exploration Bureau -- the company targeted in the Ethiopian attack -- has also refused to allow this tragedy to halt its investment in Ethiopia.


Abe-Bush summit


In response to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's first visit to the US, Liu hoped the Bush-Abe summit would properly handle any issues pertaining to China.


The leaders of the two major powers are set to reaffirm their long-standing alliance and global cooperation.


Washington had declared that they would potentially supply next-generation fighter aircraft to Japan, with Liu expressing China's hopes that "such an arrangement will not impose a negative impact on the Northeast Asian region."


On whether Chinese victims of Japanese aggression have the right to claim reparations, Liu said this was a serious political issue.


The Japanese Supreme Court will rule today whether Chinese citizens are powerless to seek reparations under post-war agreements such as the 1972 China-Japan Joint Communiqué in which the Chinese government abandoned its right to do so.


Liu said the joint communiqué provides the diplomatic and political basis for the improvement and development of Sino-Japanese relations.


"Neither side can give a unilateral explanation, including a judicial explanation, of the document," Liu said, saying the Japanese side should abide by such a principle.


He reminded the press that forced labor is a wartime atrocity, and urged the Japanese government to stand up and take appropriate responsibility for the issue.


FDA inspection


Liu said that China had invited US inspectors to assist in an investigation into potential contaminations of pet food exports.


The US discovered wheat gluten contaminated with melamine had been exported from China to the US and placed in pet food, causing the deaths of over a dozen cats and dogs.


Liu spoke of China is giving its full attention to the case and that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) were coming at the invitation of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine.


"They will come to China to exchange ideas and consult on inspection techniques in cooperation with our inspectors," Liu said.


Green house emissions


After the International Energy Agency revealed that China would become the world's biggest source of greenhouse gases this year, Liu made clear China's commitment to fighting climate change and that developed countries should take the lead in slashing emissions. He added that China is willing to take active steps to lower its own emissions.


Celil case


Liu said that China welcomed the upcoming visit of Canadian Foreign Minister Peter MacKay but that it remained unclear whether MacKay would address the case of Huseyin Celil when he meets with Chinese counterpart Li Zhaoxing.


"We believe the case is China's internal affair and in essence relates to anti-terrorism and has no connection with Canada," he said.


Celil, a China-born Uygur and a prominent member of the "East Turkistan" terrorist organization, was sentenced to life imprisonment on April 19 for plotting to split the country and received another 10-year sentence for engaging in acts of terrorism.


Canada gave Celil, 37, Canadian citizenship in 2001 but China has not recognized the act. He was extradited to China shortly after his arrest in Uzbekistan last year. 


Liu said China has outlined its stance about Celil many times, and hopes Canada will not interfere.


Liu said MacKay's visit from April 29 to May 1 would hopefully play a pivotal role in moving bilateral relations along.


The scheduled agenda for his visit will cover the areas of building political trust, economic cooperation, cultural and personnel exchanges, and collaboration on international affairs, he added.


BDA funds issue


Liu said that the North Korean funds imbroglio was still not resolved with technical problems remaining, although he did not disclose what these were.


"The parties concerned are all striving for an early settlement of the issue," said Liu.


North Korea reiterated today its commitment to implement the February 13 agreement, inviting the IAEA to visit the country once the money is retrieved from Macao's Banco Delta Asia (BDA).

North Korea remains firm in its desire to implement the February 13 agreement, but will not take any steps until the issue of the frozen funds has been completely settled, Ri Je-son, director of North Korea's General Department of Atomic Energy, said in reply to IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei's request for a visit by the IAEA delegation.


In another development, Liu said China welcomed the news that North Korea and Myanmar had renewed relations in Yangon yesterday, after a hiatus since 1983.


St. Lucia urged to abide by one-China policy


Liu also called on the government of Saint Lucia to abide by the one-China policy since this principle underpins bilateral ties.


The Taiwan authorities consistently continue their doomed attempts at creating "two Chinas" or "one China, one Taiwan," he added.


Saint Lucia is a small Caribbean island with a population of approximately 170,000 people. China and Saint Lucia established diplomatic relations in 1997.


(China Daily, Xinhua News Agency April 27, 2007)

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