Xinhua News Agency: China, Japan and the ROK jointly announced that Shaoxing and Dunhuang in China, Kitakyushu in Japan, and Sunchon in the ROK have been designated as the Culture Cities of East Asia 2021, an important cultural cooperation project among the three countries. Could you talk a little bit more about trilateral cooperation including in the cultural sector?
Wang Wenbin: Against the COVID-19 outbreak this year, China, Japan and the ROK worked together to advance practical cooperation in various areas, achieving positive outcomes. We held a special foreign ministers' meeting on COVID-19, a special meeting of transportation and logistics ministers, a meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors, a meeting of IPR authorities, and two health ministers' meetings, reaching consensus on strengthening anti-epidemic cooperation, keeping regional industrial chain and supply chain stable, and promoting economic recovery. In the meantime, brand projects including selection of Culture Cities of East Asia, cultural industry forum, Wukong Cup Comic Contest 2020 for Youths Among China, Japan and the ROK all went ahead smoothly as scheduled, giving a strong boost to exchange and friendship among people of the three countries.
China-Japan-ROK cooperation is an important part and driving force of East Asia cooperation. China attaches high importance to this trilateral cooperation and stands ready to maintain close communication with the ROK and Japan to strive for fresh progress, inject new impetus into post-pandemic economic recovery, and make new contributions to world peace, stability, development and prosperity.
New York Times: I want to ask about the Chinese discussions with the European Union on a bilateral investment agreement, particularly the diplomatic implications. One, what are China's broader diplomatic goals in getting this kind of agreement with Europe? Is this part of a broader Chinese look towards closer ties to Europe today? Second, are you trying to rush an agreement here so as to improve relations with Europe before President-elect Biden is inaugurated, given that President-elect Biden has said that he will try to improve American relations with Europe? Last, there have been calls-at least one call in the European Parliament-to block ratification of the agreement unless China makes commitments regarding Xinjiang and "forced labor". What's your response?
Wang Wenbin: On your first question, we have talked about our position on the negotiations of a China-EU investment agreement. You may refer to it. Between China and the EU, cooperation and consensus far outweighs competition and differences. As partners of mutually beneficial cooperation, our relations boast strong vitality. No matter how the international landscape may evolve, China and the EU should grasp the mainstream of dialogue and cooperation and the main theme of mutual benefit, properly manage differences, work for steady development of our comprehensive strategic partnership, and inject greater stability into the world.
On your second question, I just stated China's stance on China-EU relations, which remains consistent and clear.
On your third question, there's no such thing as "forced labor" in Xinjiang. It's a groundless accusation. I refer you to media coverage of the press conference on Xinjiang-related issues held yesterday by the foreign ministry with the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
Reuters: Human Rights Watch today released an open letter to the head of the International Olympic Committee, urging them to conduct a review of human rights situation in China. It voiced concerns about the human rights environment when the 2022 Games will take place. What's the ministry's comment on this?
Wang Wenbin: China firmly rejects the politicization of sports as it runs counter to the Olympic Charter. The so-called human rights organizations are entirely politically driven when they play up so-called "human rights issues in China" citing the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. In the end, it will only jeopardize the Olympics and the interests of athletes around the world.
I'd like to reiterate that the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games and Winter Paralympic Games will be China's major contribution to the International Olympic Movement. Winter sports lovers all over the world are looking forward to the Beijing Winter Games. Now the preparation is well underway and highly recognized by the International Olympic Committee and the international community. We will work with all sides to make the Games a wonderful, extraordinary and outstanding Olympic event.
China Daily: A virtual ministerial meeting of JCPOA participants was held on December 21. What's China's contribution to this meeting? How about the outcomes of this meeting?
Wang Wenbin: State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi attended a virtual ministerial meeting of JCPOA participants on December 21. This meeting was convened as the situation surrounding the Iranian nuclear issue has reached a critical juncture. Attending foreign ministers exchanged views thoroughly on the current situation of the Iranian nuclear issue and the direction it's heading towards.
With a view to bring the JCPOA back on track, State Councilor Wang Yi made a four-point proposal at the meeting. First, making relentless efforts to uphold the JCPOA. We must hold our ground more firmly against the maximum pressure from the Trump administration, make more proactive efforts to uphold the Agreement, and reach out more to all relevant parties, to win more time and space for a turnaround of the situation. Second, pushing for an early U.S. return to the JCPOA. The United States should rejoin the Agreement with no preconditions as early as possible. It should lift all sanctions on Iran and on third-party entities and individuals. On this basis Iran should fully resume compliance with its nuclear-related commitments. China proposes that JCPOA participants hold consultations on this as early as possible and then, upon reaching consensus, consider holding an international meeting with the participation of JCPOA parties and the United States to start the process for the United States to return to the deal. Third, resolving the compliance issues fairly and impartially. Iran's scaling back of its commitments happened for a reason. We must stay united, manage differences and secure Iran's legitimate economic interests. Fourth, properly handling regional security issues. China proposes the establishment of a multilateral dialogue framework in the Gulf region to discuss regional security issues on the premise of upholding the JCPOA to build up consensus incrementally.
All parties agreed that the US should return to the Agreement and resume compliance as soon as possible. No preconditions for this should be set by any party. In the joint statement issued after the meeting, JCPOA participants re-emphasized their commitment to preserving the Agreement and its full and effective implementation. Ministers reiterated their deep regret towards the US withdrawal from the agreement. They stressed that resolution 2231 remains fully in force; Ministers acknowledged the prospect of a return of the United States to the JCPOA and underlined their readiness to positively address this in a joint effort. China will continue to work closely with the JCPOA participants to actively implement the joint statement, endeavor to stabilize the situation on the Iranian nuclear issue, bring the JCPOA back on track, and safeguard peace and stability in the Middle East.
Associated Press of Pakistan: Last week, a Chinese constructor officially handed over Sukkur-Multan Motorway to Pakistani authorities. It is the largest transportation infrastructure project completed under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor framework. Do you have any comment on that?
Wang Wenbin: I noticed the good news. The Peshawar-Karachi Motorway is an early harvest project and the largest transportation infrastructure project under the CPEC. The Sukkur-Multan section has been completed and officially handed over to the Pakistani side.
The motorway links two important cities Sukkur and Multan, reducing traffic time from 11 hours to around 4. Based on my information, during the construction, about 29,000 local jobs were created. The project runs through major areas producing economic crops and gives a direct boost to socioeconomic development along its route. The Chinese contracting company also improved social welfare in villages along the routes by constructing school buildings, roads and bridges, digging wells and irrigation works.
The handover of the project is an epitome of the CPEC going ahead against the impact of COVID-19. China stands ready to work together with Pakistan to act on our leaders' consensus and while continuing existing projects, shift more energy onto cooperation in areas like social welfare, industry and agriculture, so as to turn the CPEC into a demonstration project of high quality BRI development and bring more benefits to people in both countries and beyond.
AFP: Hong Kong democracy activist Nathan Law said he has applied for asylum in Britain. He said he left Hong Kong because of the new national security law. Does the foreign ministry have any comment?
Wang Wenbin: China upholds rule of law and Hong Kong is no exception. Hong Kong residents' rights and interests are fully protected by law. At the same time, criminal offences will be punished by law. The individual concerned here is a criminal suspect wanted by the Hong Kong police. We stand firmly against any country, organization or individual meddling in Hong Kong affairs, interfering in its judicial matters, or harboring criminal offenders out of political purposes. No matter how anti-China Hong Kong disruptors may beg for external refuge, their only end will be complete failure.
Bloomberg: Two questions. The first one refers to U.S. Commerce Department adding 58 Chinese companies to a new list of firms it says have links to Chinese military. So under this scenario, anybody seeking to sell items that could eventually be used for military purposes would need a license. What's China's comment on this? The second question refers to an announcement by U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo announcing additional restrictions on U.S. visas for Chinese officials that are believed to be responsible or complicit in human rights abuses. Can you comment on this?
Wang Wenbin: On your first question, the United States has been abusing state power and national security concept to suppress and contain certain foreign companies by applying measures such as export control. It severely violates the rules of free trade, gravely threatens the security of global industrial and supply chains, and seriously undermines the well-being and interests of people in all countries including the United States. China firmly rejects it and urges the United States to immediately stop its erroneous practice and provide a level playing field for Chinese and other foreign companies. China will take all essential measures to uphold the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese businesses.
On your second question, over the past four years, the United States, led by Pompeo, has been weaponizing its visa policy to impose various visa sanctions on Chinese individuals citing so-called issues related to Hong Kong, Xinjiang, Tibet, religion and human rights. It severely interferes in China's internal affairs, impedes regular people-to-people exchange and undercuts China-U.S. relations. China firmly rejects and strongly condemns it.
In response to the erroneous U.S. practice, China has lately imposed reciprocal sanctions on U.S. personnel who shoulder major responsibilities towards interfering in China's domestic affairs, harming Chinese interests, and undermining China-U.S. relations as well as their families. We urge the United States to correct its mistakes and withdraw the visa sanctions against Chinese individuals. Depending on the U.S. moves, we will continue taking legitimate and necessary measures to safeguard our interests.
NHK: The U.S. Congress passed a funding bill for fiscal year 2021 and a COVID-19 relief bill containing content on Tibet's human rights and religious freedom. Do you have any comment on this?
Wang Wenbin: China noticed reports on this. We resolutely oppose the U.S. Congress adoption of bills containing such ill contents on China. Issues related to Tibet, Taiwan and Hong Kong concern China's sovereignty and territorial integrity. They are China's internal affairs that allow no foreign interference. The Chinese government is determined in safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests. We urge the United States to stop meddling in our domestic affairs under those pretexts, refrain from signing the bills or implementing the negative contents and items in them that target China and undercut China's interests, so as to avoid further damaging overall China-U.S. cooperation and bilateral relations.