|Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan Gives a Press Conference During the 1st Session of the 10th NPC (06/03/2003)
On the afternoon of March 6, 2003, the 1st Session of the 10th NPC held a press conference at the Great Hall of the People. At the invitation of Mr. Jiang Enzhu, Spokesman of the NPC Session, Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan took the questions of Chinese and foreign correspondents on China's diplomatic work and international hotspot issues.
The following is the full text of the press conference.
CCTV: When people look back at the past five years, they generally believe that China has handled the complex and volatile international situation with skills and calmness, and successfully maintained its fundamental national interests. But there are a few who view China as being a little too soft and not tough enough. As the foreign minister, how do you see it? What are your expectations for the future? It seems that a war on Iraq is imminent. Does China still believe that it can be averted?
Tang: When we look at the global picture, we realize that peace and development remain the principal themes of our time. Just like many other countries, China is faced with important opportunities as well as some grave challenges. China's foreign policy is featured by continuity and stability on the one hand, and keeping pace with the times by giving expressions to the salient features of our era on the other. China will unswervingly pursue its Independent Foreign Policy of Peace, the purpose of which is to maintain world peace and promote common development.
With regard to your question on being tough or soft, my view is that diplomats should have a firm stance on principles and also be flexible as may be required by the specific issue. When they are tough, they also need a certain degree of softness. When they are soft, they also need a certain degree of toughness. In a word, they ought to combine firmness with flexibility. What matters most is to best fulfill their duty of safeguarding the fundamental interests of the country and the people.
In 2003, China will continue to strengthen the friendly, good-neighborly and cooperative ties with its neighbors, improve and develop relations with the developed countries and further enhance its solidarity and cooperation with the other developing countries. Moreover, China will work hard to promote peaceful and political solutions to hotspot issues, step up international counter-terrorism cooperation, and seek effective ways to common development. To this end, we will take a more active part in multilateral diplomacy.
On the Iraq issue, I believe the Iraq issue is now at a critical junction of whether there will be a military solution or a political one. China's position on this issue is well known to all, that is, we hope for a political solution within the framework of the UN Security Council. It was during China's presidency of the Security Council that members of the Security Council adopted Resolution 1441 unanimously last November. The tasks spelled out by that Resolution are not completed yet, especially the task to continue and strengthen inspections until they get to the bottom of it. We should be working hard for a political solution and trying to avoid war. At this moment, it is absolutely unnecessary to put aside Resolution 1441 and table a new one.
After today's press conference, I will leave directly for the airport, travelling to New York for a Security Council meeting on Iraq. It is going to be my third New York trip within a month on the same issue. We will further emphasize that even if there is only one percent of a chance for a peaceful solution, China, as a permanent member of the Security Council, will continue to exert its utmost to make it come true.
Reuters: China wants the DPRK nuclear issue to be solved by the relevant sides through direct dialogue. Does China have any specific plan for getting the relevant sides together? What kinds of specific diplomatic efforts has China done in this regard?
Tang: Actually we have stated China's position on this issue for many times. The basic point is that we support a nuclear-free and de-nuclearized Korean Peninsula. The purpose of this is to maintain peace and stability in this part of the world. To realize this goal, from a historical and realistic point of view, the most effective way is for the DPRK and the United States to talk directly to each other. China is opposed to the emergence of nuclear weapons in the Korean Peninsula no matter in the North or in the South. We believe a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula best serves the interests of countries concerned. It is also the best for the DPRK itself. We have noted that the DPRK has indicated that it has no intention to develop nuclear weapons and is willing to be verified through a bilateral channel between it and the United States, and the DPRK can accept inspections in this regard. Currently, there is a serious stand-off between the DPRK and the US, and the sticking point is the deep mistrust between the two sides. We have all along called for dialogue and opposed the imposition of pressure or sanctions against the DPRK on this issue. Because rather than solving the problem, this can only lead to the further complication of the situation.
We have been working on parties concerned to urge them to seek a peaceful solution through dialogue. Of course, as the international community is focusing its attention on this issue, many parties have offered many ideas and suggestions. China has all along adopted a positive and open attitude to any proposal that is conducive to the relaxation of tension, stability and peaceful solution. Currently the key lies in the attitude of the main interlocutors, namely the US and the DPRK. Their attitude will decide the development orientation of this matter.
China is not after headlines or publicity campaign. What we have been doing has been done in a down-to-earth manner and there have been initial concrete results.
AFP: China said repeatedly that it hopes for a peaceful solution to the Iraq issue. Just now you also said that even if there is only one percent of a chance for a peaceful solution, China will do its utmost to ensure it. Does it mean that China will use its veto at the UN Security Council? On whether to use its veto, will China consider what kind of impact this may have on its relations with the United States?
Tang: I think it is a bit too early for you to raise this question at this point. We think regarding the Iraq issue, pathways for political solution have not been exhausted on the diplomatic stage of the Security Council. There is still possibility for a political and diplomatic solution.
You asked how China will vote. On similar matters, China's practice is always to make independent judgment and judge the matter on its own merits, follow China's principles and foreign policy and proceed from the fundamental interests of the Chinese people.
NHK: After Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi visited the Yasukuni Shrine, high-level exchange of visits between China and Japan has been put on hold for a long time. Maybe this is nothing to people on the streets in the two countries. But from a diplomatic point of view, this is not normal. My question is, after the new leadership in China is elected during the NPC and CPPCC sessions, do you think high-level exchange of visits will resume in the near future? Can you talk about your views and hopes?
Tang: Japan is an important close neighbor of China. The Chinese government has all along attached importance to the good-neighborly and friendly relations and cooperation with Japan. We are going to continue to attach importance to our relationship with Japan in the future. We stand ready to work with the Japanese side to make sure that our relations develop in a healthy and steady manner as guided by the three important documents including the Sino-Japanese Joint Statement and in the spirit of drawing lessons from history and being forward-looking. Regarding high-level exchange of visits, we in China have always been positive. Of course, to conduct important exchange of visits at the top level successfully and effectively requires necessary conditions and these conditions need to be created. I have said for many times that to visit the Yasukuni Shrine in one's official capacity is no small matter. To say the least, it reveals the attitude Japan's political figures have on the history of Japan's invasion against its Asian neighbors including China. We have all along maintained that historical facts should be respected, useful lessons should be drawn from history and we should have a forward-looking attitude in developing the good-neighborly and friendly ties and cooperation between our two countries.
Xinhua News Agency: The first question is on Iraq. Yesterday, France, Russia and Germany clearly stated their opposition to war. What's China's position on this? If the United States proposes a new resolution at the UN Security Council, will China abstain again? The second question: You visited Africa again early this year. It seems to us that you visit Africa every year. Then how do you evaluate China's relations with African countries?
Tang: On March 5, France, Russia and Germany made a joint statement. China's position on Iraq is consistent with their joint statement. China endorses and supports the contents of their joint statement. Talking about the vote, I have already made it very clear and I have nothing to add to it at this moment.
On China-Africa relations, as you all know that it has become a general practice for the Chinese foreign minister to visit Africa on his first overseas trip every year. It has been so for over a decade. Actually it was started by Mr. Qian Qichen when he was the foreign minister. This is a good tradition in the Foreign Ministry. Since I became the foreign minister 5 years ago, I have visited Africa 9 times, covering almost every corner of the Continent, not including those trips where I was accompanying our national leaders. I was deeply touched by the hospitality and friendship of the African people. In spite of the difficulties and challenges, the African Continent is full of hope. More and more African countries have embraced the trend of self-strengthening through closer unity. Their cause of peace and development is making fresh progress with each passing day. Regarding ties with African countries and other developing countries as a point of departure of its foreign policy, China has all along supported African countries in their efforts to safeguard independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty and develop the national economy. In this cause, China has provided them with sincere aid to the best of its ability. The Chinese government has actively supported the establishment of the African Union and the formulation and implementation of the New Partnership for African Development, forgiven the debts for the poorest and heavily-indebted African countries, and used its good offices to help bring peaceful solutions to the hotspot issues in the Continent. To strengthen economic cooperation, trade and bilateral political consultation, China and Africa jointly launched China-Africa Cooperation Forum. The first ministerial meeting of the Forum in Beijing was a great success. This year, the second ministerial meeting of the Forum will be held in Ethiopia.
Aljazeera Channel: China has successfully used its foreign policy to serve its economic development. But the foreign policies of other countries also have impact on China's economic development. For instance, the control of oil resources by some countries will influence China's economy. Will China drastically change its own foreign policy to adapt to the situation?
Tang: Oil and natural gas are traditionally regarded as strategic resources. In fact, China's own reserves of oil and natural gas are very scarce. So every year, we import large amounts of oil and gas. We have realized this problem a long time ago and worked out the strategy of diversifying the sources of oil and gas imports to meet our own need. As the situation evolves, there may be impact on China's oil imports, but I don't think the impact will be significant. We've long since made preparations.
CNN: We have witnessed many changes in the world and in China, and we are witnessing sweeping changes in the Chinese leadership. How are these changes affecting China's foreign policy? For example, will the new leadership mean that China will change the way it votes in the United Nations on Iraq, or North Korea? And if there is a secret Bible of China's diplomacy, What is it? Is it still the same old Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence, or is there a new one?
Tang: As a matter of fact, I have already touched upon your question as I was answering other questions. Let me emphasize again that China's foreign policy features continuity and stability. We will continue to establish and develop normal state-to-state relations with other countries on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence. We will continue and unswervingly pursue the Independent Foreign Policy of Peace. The core of this policy is to maintain world peace and seek common development. There will be no change to this.
I suggest that you spend some time reading the part on China's foreign policy in the political document issued by the 16th Party Congress. There is very detailed and clear explanation in that document.
With regard to the Iraq issue, we think it is not necessary to introduce any new resolution, because the tasks spelt out by Resolution 1441 are not completed yet. We have to continue the inspection until we get to the bottom of it. We have to continue to work hard for a political solution. Every effort has to be made to avoid war, because war does not serve the interest of any country in the world. We get the best proof in the fact that people around the world have been voicing their anti-war opinions. A war would lead to catastrophic humanitarian disaster to the innocent people in the Gulf region, in the Middle East and also in the world. It will have serious negative impact on the political and economic landscape in the Gulf region and in the world. It will also negatively affect the global economic recovery that is underway.
Les Dernieres Nouvelles d'Al: Is there any sort of agreement between France, Germany, Russia and China concerning coordinating the votes on the second resolution on the Iraq issue? And also considering the closer understanding between these four countries, is there a chance that this better understanding would influence or bear any significance on the future of China's diplomacy?
Tang: Between the leaders and foreign ministers of China and other countries, there are frequent contacts and communications, but there is nothing like a private agreement between China and any country. I have said we endorse and support the joint statement by France, Germany and Russia.
Cable TV of Hong Kong: When China considers the Iraq issue, is it a factor for China to consider too, that the United States might have promised to make concession on the Taiwan question and in exchange, to get China's support on the question of Iraq? Is Taiwan one of the factors of China's consideration in relation to the Iraq issue? My second question is about the Basic Law, Article 23 legislation. There are different views in the world about the legislation on national security. Some people are worried that this might affect their work, investment and free flow of information. Do you have anything to say to them to remove their worry?
Tang: Secretary Powell once said that he met or called the Chinese Foreign Minister almost every week. Indeed, we have stayed in close consultation on issues like the Iraq and the DPRK nuclear issue.
Our position on the Taiwan question is actually very clear and consistent. The key to steady development of China-US relations is for the US to appropriately handle the Taiwan question. In handling the China-US relations, we have to make sure of the following: Firstly, we have to view this relationship from a long-term and a strategic prospective. Secondly, we have to deepen mutual understanding and trust. Thirdly, we must recognize and respect the differences because differences do exist between us. The key is to narrow these differences and broaden the converging points of our common interests. Fourthly, we must adhere to the three joint communiqués and the One China policy. The US side must make good its commitment and well handle the question of Taiwan.
With regard to the Basic Law Article 23 legislation, I think it is common practice for all countries to make law to prohibit criminal activities which endanger national security and unity. It is only natural for the Hong Kong SAR, as a special administrative region of China, to make appropriate laws on its own. This is also necessary if the Basic Law is to be well implemented. This matter falls into the internal affairs of China and the internal affairs of Hong Kong as the legislative activities of a local administrative region of the PRC. The outsiders shouldn't make irresponsible remarks on it.
Associated Press Pakistan: Would you kindly like to comment on Pakistan-China friendship and their mutual understanding on the regional and international issues and Pakistan's role against terrorism in the recent years?
Tang: China and Pakistan are close and friendly neighbors, enjoying a long-term and traditional friendship and cooperation. Our relationship is characterized as all-weather relationship. There have been frequent consultations, coordination and cooperation between China and Pakistan on regional and international issues, especially those important issues that are of mutual interests to the two countries. With regard to counter-terrorism, Pakistan has made a great deal of positive efforts, especially in the case of Afghanistan. I believe our exchanges and cooperation in the anti-terrorism and other fields will continue to move forward. I believe such cooperation is also in the interest of peace, stability and development in South Asia.