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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hong Lei's Regular Press Conference on February 29, 2012

Q: It is reported that Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi recently discussed the Syrian situation with some Arab Foreign Ministers. Please brief us on that. Separately, the UN Security Council is deliberating on a new Syria-related draft resolution about providing humanitarian assistance to Syria. What is China's comment?

A: On your first question, on February 27 and 28, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi had telephone conversations with Arab League Secretary General Araby, Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr, Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Faisal and Algerian Foreign Minister Medelci respectively, mainly exchanging views on the Syrian issue.

Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi stated that China stands for peace and stability in Syria and the Middle East region on the Syrian issue. What is pressing now is that all conflicting parties in Syria should halt all acts of violence immediately, launch inclusive political dialogue swiftly and work on reform plans. The international community should create conditions to this end and carry out humanitarian assistance to Syria. China values the important role played by the Arab League on the Syrian issue and stands ready to work together with Arab countries for a peaceful and appropriate settlement of the Syrian issue at an early date.

The other Foreign Ministers appreciated China's timely communication with them on the Syrian issue, saying that Arab countries share long-term friendly and cooperative relations with China and are willing to keep in communication and coordination with the Chinese side in a joint effort to reach a peaceful and appropriate settlement of the Syrian issue at an early date.

On your second question, China has iterated on many occasions that the Security Council, if taking action on the Syrian issue, should abide by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and contribute to alleviating tension there, promoting political dialogue, dissolving disputes and upholding peace and stability in the Middle East region as well as unity of the international community.

Q: The Pakistani Police has reportedly confirmed on February 28 that a Chinese female was shot dead by unknown gunmen in the eastern Pakistani city Peshawar. Please confirm and brief us on that. Is China worried about the safety of Chinese nationals in Pakistan? What measures will be adopted to ensure their safety?

A: The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs pays high attention to the incident. The Chinese Embassy in Pakistan launched the emergency response mechanism immediately after the incident and sent staff to the scene on the same night to assist in dealing with the aftermath. The Embassy has also urged the Pakistani side to make every effort to go after the perpetrators, bring them to justice and take concrete and effective measures to enhance the protection of Chinese institutions and nationals in Pakistan. At present, the Pakistani side is looking into the case.

Q: In spite of China's repeated calls for an end to violence in Syria, hundreds of people die under the guns of the Syrian Government every day. When will China find the violence in Syria unacceptable? Will China contact the Syrian Government and urge the Syrian side to stop violence?

A: China has expounded on its relevant position time and again. China is deeply concerned about the escalating tension in the country which has caused heavy casualties and affected peace and stability in the Middle East region. We urge the government and all parties concerned in Syria to immediately and fully end all acts of violence and restore national stability and social order as soon as possible. We call on the Syrian Government to pay serious heed to the people's legitimate desire for reform and call on the various political factions in Syria to express their political aspirations through non-violent and legal means. We hope that the Syrian crisis will be resolved peacefully and appropriately at an early date for the sake of the long-term and fundamental interests of the Syrian people.

Q: Admiral Willard, head of the US Pacific Command reportedly said on February 28 that the American military must remain present in the South China Sea to ensure the security of sea lanes. China has become less confrontational in the South China Sea issue since 2011, but remains the only one among the South China Sea claimant states that lays sovereignty claim to "virtually all'' of the South China Sea. How does China respond?

A: China's position on the South China Sea issue is consistent and clear. China has indisputable sovereignty over islands in the South China Sea as well as their adjacent waters. There is no such thing as being more or less confrontational. China always bears in mind its national strategy of peaceful development and foreign policy of good-neighbourliness, pays attention to safeguarding regional peace and stability and stays committed to resolving peacefully the South China Sea dispute through direct negotiation and friendly consultation with countries concerned based on respect for historical facts and international law. This is also the consensus of parties concerned on the South China Sea issue.The channels of negotiation and consultation between China and relevant countries are open.

At the core of the South China Sea dispute are the territorial sovereignty dispute over some of the Nansha Islands and the demarcation dispute over part of the waters of the South China Sea. What should be pointed out is that neither China nor any other country lays claim to the entire South China Sea. We are not sure whether it is because of their unawareness of facts or it is out of their ulterior motives that some people keep making irresponsible remarks on this issue. We believe it needs to be clarified here.

It is proven that navigation freedom and safety in the South China Sea has never been a problem and has not been affected by the South China Sea dispute. We hope that all parties, including those not involved in the South China Sea dispute will contribute more to regional peace and stability.

Q: With regard to the incident that a Chinese vessel tailed after and asked the Japanese coast guard survey ship Takuyo to stop its activities on February 28, a Japanese official reportedly said that the survey ship was performing duties within Japan's exclusive economic zone. Japan has lodged its protest to China through the official channel and would carry on with its survey. What is China's comment?

A: China's position on the East China Sea issue is clear and consistent. We are dissatisfied with Japan's repeated unilateral survey in the disputed waters of the East China Sea in defiance of China's objection. We have required the Japanese side to cease relevant activities immediately so as to avoid infringing on China's rights and interests and maintain stability in the East China Sea as well as the overall interests of China-Japan relations.

Q: US President Obama signed an executive order on February 28, announcing the establishment of an Interagency Trade Enforcement Center to investigate and counter unfair trade practices around the world, including by countries like China. What is China's comment?

A: China-US economic relations and trade is mutually beneficial in nature. The two sides should understand and accommodate each other and resolve economic frictions appropriately through consultations on an equal footing.

Q: The US and the EU are planning to raise the issue of DPRK "defectors" in the UN Human Rights Council. The US Congress will also hold a hearing on that. They all regard the "defectors" as "political refugees". What is China's comment?

A: This kind of remarks is completely inconsistent with facts. We oppose relevant parties' discussion of the issue concerning illegal border crossers from the DPRK to China in relevant international agencies. These agencies are not the venue for such discussion. We have stated time and again that relevant illegal border crossers are not refugees. They crossed the border illegally out of economic purposes. We oppose the attempt to internationalize and politicize the issue and make it refugee issue. China will stick to its long-standing practice and deal with relevant issue appropriately in accordance with domestic law, international law and humanitarian principles. It serves the common interests of all parties and meets the international common practice. We hope that China's judicial sovereignty will be respected and protected and relevant parties and people will not keep playing up this issue.

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