Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said yesterday that China is shocked by the shooting rampage at a Virginia university and spoke out in strongest terms against the violence.
In two shooting sprees at a two-hour interval, 33 people, including the shooter, were killed at the university on Monday in the worst mass shooting incident ever in modern US history.
In a statement issued last night, US police officially named the shooter, who committed suicide after the attacks, as 23-year-old Cho Seung-hui, a fourth-year exchange student from South Korea.
Earlier yesterday, Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing dispatched a letter of condolence to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, extending his "deepest condolences" to the victims and their families and "sincere solicitude" to the US government and its people.
China hopes for early settlement of North Korea issue
Turning to the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, Liu said China wished to see a swift resolution to the North Korean frozen funds issue so that the denuclearization process could continue.
He said that differences about this technical issue are being ironed out, but that some specifics needed further clarification.
"We hope such a process is reached soon," Liu commented, two days after Pyongyang missed its deadline to shut down the Yongbyon nuclear reactor.
On Friday, North Korea said it was awaiting confirmation that the US$25-million had been released from a Macao bank before taking the next step, despite assurances from Washington and Macao authorities that the money was free to be withdrawn.
China was elated to hear of the consensus reached by the UN, the African Union (AU) and the Sudanese government on Monday, which will allow the second phase of a UN support plan for Darfur to go ahead, Liu said.
The support plan was formulated by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and first nominally accepted by the AU and Sudan during a November 16 meeting in Addis-Ababa last year.
Also known as the "Annan Plan," it would allow the UN to gradually increase its logistical, technical and human resources support to the 7,800-strong African peacekeeping force in Darfur until a joint UN-AU force is formed.
Call for developed nations to give more aid to Africa
Liu said China always encouraged active participation by developed nations in giving aid to Africa.
"While China engages in economic, trade and cultural cooperation with Africa, we urge any other countries, especially developed countries, to do the same in Africa and thus achieve development for the whole continent," he said after Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi called on Europe and Japan to coordinate aid to curb China's growing influence in Africa.
"If other countries in the world want to collaborate in helping Africa, this is a positive step, but no side may exclude the other," he added.
Illegal timber imports
Liu defended China's timber and forestry import control measures, saying that the country abides by strict procedures and does its utmost to combat illegal trade activities.
This statement came on the heels of an accusation by Greenpeace that China imported thousands of cubic meters of illegally felled tropical hardwood from Papua New Guinea and Indonesia last year to supply its furniture industry.
Greenpeace further commented that China's timber demands were causing irreparable damage to forests in these countries.
Recognizing that the timber trade was an important element of global trade, Liu said that the legal timber trade was not responsible for the destruction of forests in certain parts of the world.
He stressed the Chinese State Forestry Administration, the Ministry of Commerce and the General Administration of Customs were all involved in supervising timber imports to curb any illegal trade activities. He noted that as a major player in terms of timber imports and exports, China sought to forge close cooperation with timber-producing nations.
The government will always advocate mutually-beneficial actions in exploiting forest resources and will ensure that Chinese enterprises not only work with long-term sustainable goals in mind but also abide by local laws while conducting logging, renewal and wood-processing internationally.
Liu also announced the following:
l Senior officials of China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will hold their annual consultation in Anhui Province from April 23 to 25, with China's Assistant Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai and deputy foreign ministers from ASEAN countries in attendance to decide on the follow-up actions of the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.
l Singapore's Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong will visit China from April 23 to 26. During his stay, Goh will attend the Second Investment and Trade Fair of Central China, to be held in Zhengzhou, capital city of Henan Province.
l At the invitation of President Hu Jintao, Prince Albert II, head of state of Monaco, will also visit from April 24 to 27.
(Xinhua News Agency, China Daily April 18, 2007)