Attempting to minimize the financial repercussions felt by the Macao Special Administrative Region (MSAR), China yesterday called for consultations between the US and the Macao government to seek to reduce the latter's concerns over the financial isolation of Banco Delta Asia (BDA), a Macao-based bank.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao made these remarks at a regular press conference addressing the North Korea frozen funds held at BDA.
The small privately-owned bank BDA was thrust into the limelight after the US Treasury Department severed all American business ties to the bank in September 2005, accusing it of being a money-laundering channel for North Korea.
North Korea has denied the charges and has ordered the sanctions lifted by the US before returning to the six-party talks.
US Deputy Assistant Treasury Secretary Daniel Glaser announced on March 19 that the US would release the North Korean funds and transfer them to Bank of China in Beijing.
Liu hailed this consensus, saying that resolving the BDA issue would help move the six-party talks along. However, he called for negotiations between the US and the MSAR government to help avoid any untoward repercussions to Macao's financial and social stability.
Iran nuclear issue
Turning to the Iranian nuclear issue, Liu reiterated that all negotiations concerning the affair would help international diplomatic efforts progress.
He maintained that China's opposition to nuclear proliferation remained constant and that it wished to see the nuclear issue solved through peaceful negotiation.
He addressed China's consistent participation in the UN Security Council's negotiations on the issue and confirmed that China will maintain diplomatic consultations with all parties concerned as they move toward a permanent solution.
Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US agreed on a draft UN Security Council resolution on March 15, meting out tougher sanctions to Iran for its unwavering defiance.
Two Chinese workers kidnapped in Nigeria
Turning to Africa, Liu confirmed the kidnapping of two Chinese workers in Nigeria.
"They were abducted on Saturday in the southern Nigerian State of Anambra by unidentified kidnappers carrying weapons," he said. "The Chinese government has urged Nigeria to make all efforts to rescue the two workers. The Nigerian side has said it would do its best to secure their release."
This is the third such incident in 2007 in Nigeria. On January 5, five Chinese working for Teleken Engineering were kidnapped in Rivers State while upgrading rural telephone services. They were released on January 17.
Twenty days later, nine Chinese workers were taken at gunpoint from the office of China National Petroleum Corp in an attack that saw one of the attackers killed. They were part of a team conducting seismic research in the Sagbama area of Bayelsa State in southern Nigeria.
The workers were freed after an 11-day ordeal, returning to Beijing on February 7.
The Foreign Ministry has posted regular online warnings keeping Chinese travelers informed of shifting dangers overseas. Liu further urged Chinese companies, workers and students overseas to take all possible care in avoiding these situations.
At the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Hu Jintao will visit Russia from March 26 to 28, Liu announced.
During the three-day trip, President Hu will attend the opening ceremony of the "Year of China in Russia," he said.
Liu further announced that Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg would come to China from March 25 to 28 at the invitation of Premier Wen Jiabao.
(Xinhua News Agency, China Daily March 21, 2007)