|Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin’s Regular Press Conference on February 16, 2023|
China News Service: We noted that Member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs Wang Yi has traveled to France. Could you share more with us on this visit?
Wang Wenbin: On February 15 local time, Member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs Wang Yi paid a visit to France, which is an important high-level exchange between China and France as well as Europe this year. French President Emmanuel Macron met with Wang Yi. Wang also met with French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna the same day.
Wang noted that China attaches high importance to its relations with France and always regards France as a priority partner of cooperation. China is willing to further tighten high-level exchanges with France, deepen strategic communication, enhance political mutual trust, open up new prospects for bilateral relations, and inject new impetus into the development of China-EU relations. In doing so, both sides will contribute to enhancing international cooperation and addressing global challenges and play a constructive role in promoting world peace, stability and equity. China is ready to fully reactivate dialogue and exchanges with France in various fields, hold a new round of meeting of the high-level mechanism for dialogue on people-to-people exchanges at an early date and facilitate personnel exchanges between the two countries. Next year marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and France. The two sides may jointly plan commemorative activities to cement public support and social foundation for friendly relations between the two countries.
The French side noted that it attaches great importance to its relations with China and believes that it is of great significance for France and China to strengthen strategic dialogue. In the face of an increasingly complex international situation, France and China should work together to maintain stability and balance, uphold multilateralism, oppose bloc confrontation and avoid the world being broken apart. The French side looks forward to further progress in bilateral cooperation this year and next. On top of the resumption of dialogue mechanisms, it expects to explore new areas of cooperation to make up for the time lost due to COVID and take bilateral relations to a new height. The French side firmly adheres to the one-China policy and this will remain unchanged.
Reuters: A US official said on Wednesday that the Chinese balloon that was shot down after crossing into the continental United States originally had a trajectory that would have taken it over Guam and Hawaii, but it was blown by prevailing winds. Does the foreign ministry have any comment?
Wang Wenbin: We have made clear our position on this issue multiple times. The US side should not have overreacted.
TASS: I have two questions. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at the press conference following the NATO defence ministers’ meeting yesterday that the ministers had come to an agreement on the new NATO outlook on defense planning, which referred to China as a challenge. What’s your comment? Secondly, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov yesterday called on foreign media to look into the details about the Nord Stream explosion, which were disclosed by US journalist Seymour Hersh. Hersh himself pointed out that there is little coverage of his findings in US media. What’s your comment?
Wang Wenbin: On your first question, we have pointed out time and again that NATO’s Strategic Concept has misrepresented the facts and truth by wrongly defining China as posing “systemic challenges” and smearing China’s foreign policy, normal military posture and defense policy. The document seeks to stoke confrontation and antagonism. It smacks heavily of Cold War mentality and ideological bias. China is gravely concerned over this and firmly opposes it.
China is known to be a force for world peace, a contributor to global development and a defender of the international order. China presents valuable opportunities for world peace and development. It does not pose “systemic challenges” as claimed by NATO.
NATO claims to be a regional defensive alliance, but it has constantly sought to breach its geographic confines and expand its agenda, stoke division and tensions, and create fears and confrontation. We urge NATO to abandon the outdated Cold War mentality and bloc confrontation, stop creating imaginary enemies and destabilizing Europe and the Asia-Pacific, and do something good for peace and stability in Europe and beyond.
On your second question, the Nord Stream pipelines are vital cross-border infrastructure projects. The explosions have had a major serious impact on the global energy market and ecological environment and caused international concerns over the security of major cross-border infrastructure. There should be an objective, impartial and professional investigation into the explosions, and those responsible must be held to account.
Immediately after the explosions, we saw extensive coverage in US and other Western media with one-sided speculations on who was “responsible” for the sabotage. What we see now, however, is that these media, hailed as free, professional and impartial, have fallen silent over Seymour Hersh’s detailed report. Just as Hersh wrote, “The New York Times published everything I wrote—most if not all on the front page—when I was an investigative reporter on the paper from 1972 to 1979. The Washington Post has followed my career as the loyal opposition and ran a long magazine pročle of me more than two decades ago. Neither paper has run a word at this point about the pipeline story, not even to quote the White House’s denial of my reporting.”
Do these Western media really not care about the truth behind the Nord Stream blast? Or is something else going on? What exactly do they know? Is there anything they are trying to hide? I suppose any truly objective, impartial and professional media will want to seek out the truth.
CCTV: The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) put out a statement of experts on its website on February 14, saying that in Iran, the lack of access to vital medication from abroad caused by US unilateral sanctions has resulted in increased complications and mortality rates among thalassemia patients. “The legality of the US unilateral sanctions against Iran is doubtful under international law,” they said. Do you have any comment?
Wang Wenbin: We have noted relevant reports. Over the years, the US, without any basis in international law or mandate of the Security Council, has arbitrarily imposed illegal unilateral sanctions on Iran and many other countries, grossly interfered in their internal affairs and trampled on their human rights, causing untold humanitarian disasters.
The US has been slapping various unilateral sanctions on Iran since 1979, and such sanctions have impeded Iran’s access to basic medication, vaccines and medical equipment amid COVID. As the Brookings Institution estimated, during the height of the pandemic in Iran, US sanctions could have caused up to 13,000 deaths. The brutal US sanctions on Iraq following the Gulf War more than doubled the child mortality rate in the country and caused a six-fold increase in the mortality rate of Iraqi children under age five. To date, Iraq’s per capita annual income has fallen below its 1990 level. The US unilateral sanctions have plunged Afghanistan into a humanitarian crisis. After the US froze the seven billion dollars of Afghanistan’s state assets in last February, millions of Afghans have been struggling on the verge of death, about three million children have been missing out on school and nearly 20 million people are facing acute hunger. In Syria, in the aftermath of the powerful earthquake, we have seen that the US unlawful unilateral sanctions have led to a severe shortage of heavy equipment and search and rescue tools in Syria, leaving many local people with no choice but to dig with their bare hands. As a result, many civilians including children under the rubble may have perished.
We urge the US to earnestly abide by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and the principles of international law, stop imposing illegal unilateral sanctions, stop hampering relevant countries’ efforts to mobilize resources, develop economy and improve people’s livelihood, and earnestly respect the rights to life, health and development of people in these countries.
ITV News: ITV has spoken to several people in the UK who have told us that there is state-sponsored harassment of Chinese people, in particular, Uyghur people living in the UK. And one MP, Iain Duncan Smith, has told us he believes PRC agents were behind false emails sent from his account. I believe we have made you aware of this report. And I want to ask you what is your response to such claims?
Wang Wenbin: I’m not aware of what you mentioned. But the mention of so-called “re-education camps in Xinjiang” in the report you sent us indicates that what you cited is clearly disinformation. We have made it clear many times that the so-called “re-education camps” simply do not exist in Xinjiang. The accusation is a lie of the century propagated by anti-China forces and has long been debunked by facts. China is a country based on the rule of law. The Chinese government protects the lawful rights of Chinese citizens. The attempt to use Xinjiang-related issues to smear China’s human rights conditions will never succeed.
About the comments made by the British parliamentarian, let me say that China’s position on cybersecurity is consistent and clear. We have been unequivocally opposed to hacking attacks. We hope certain politician can stop hyping China-related subjects, stop smearing and attacking China, and do more things that can contribute to the growth of China-UK relations.
AFP: You said the other day that since May last year, the US has illegally flown balloons over China’s airspace, including Xinjiang and Tibet, more than ten times at least. Could you offer any evidence or further information?
Wang Wenbin: We made it clear on many occasions that the US high-altitude balloons have illegally flown over China’s airspace without China’s approval, which violates relevant Chinese and international laws. The US side should look into this and give an explanation. The US should also give an explanation for eavesdropping on and stealing secrets from countries around the world, including its allies, and its saildrone used for collecting information found in Namibia’s waters.
Xinhua News Agency: It was reported that on February 15, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told the State Duma that Russia and China will soon hold a series of high-level political talks; the two countries are working to strengthen bilateral strategic cooperation, which has reached never-before-seen levels of trust; ties between Moscow and Beijing are cementing the foundation of the emerging polycentric architecture and serve as a balancing and stabilizing factor in global affairs. What is your comment?
Wang Wenbin: China appreciates the positive comments of Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on China-Russia relations. Under the strategic guidance of the two heads of state, relations between the two countries have maintained sound and steady development, with deepening political mutual trust, close and effective strategic coordination and substantial progress in cooperation across the board. The two countries have worked together for a multi-polar world, greater democracy in international relations, and the building of a community with a shared future for mankind. China stands ready to work with Russia to further advance our comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era.
Reuters: According to a report, trucks have resumed carrying grain and other goods from China to North Korea after almost two years’ shutdown. Can the foreign ministry confirm that the China-North Korea border is indeed open to trucks carrying these goods as this report describes?
Wang Wenbin: After friendly consultations, China and the DPRK resumed cross-border rail freight transport between Dandong and Sinuiju last year. In accordance with the agreement on border ports and other border-related agreements, the two sides will handle matters related to cooperation on border ports through consultation.
CCTV: In response to the report that WHO has stopped the second phase of the study into the origins of coronavirus because China is not cooperating, WHO Secretariat made a clarification on February 15, saying “this is an error in reporting...WHO has not abandoned studying the origins of COVID-19”. What is your comment?
Wang Wenbin: We strongly oppose attempts to use the origins tracing as a pretext to spread disinformation and smear China. Such moves are not conducive to advancing international cooperation against the pandemic and should meet the unequivocal opposition from the international community.
China always supports and participates in science-based global origins-tracing. We have been open and transparent and acted responsibly on this issue. China will continue to support this global effort and continue our communication and cooperation with WHO.
At present, more and more clues from the international science community are pointing the origins of SARS-CoV-2 to sources around the world. Many have raised questions and concerns about US bio-military bases at Fort Detrick and around the world. WHO and the Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens (SAGO) should take a close look at these clues, effectively cooperate with relevant countries, and share research findings with all parties in a timely way.
Bloomberg: It was reported that US President Joe Biden is expected to give public remarks as early as Thursday on an alleged Chinese surveillance balloon and three unidentified aerial objects. Does the foreign ministry have any comment?
Wang Wenbin: The unintended entry of the Chinese civilian airship into US airspace is an entirely unexpected, isolated incident. It is, however, a test for the US side’s capability to properly manage crisis and sincerity about stabilizing relations with China. The US needs to stop stressing the importance of communication and dialogue while fueling tensions and escalating the crisis. It needs to work in the same direction with China to manage differences, properly handle this unexpected and isolated incident, avoid misunderstanding and miscalculation, and bring China-US relations back to the track of sound and steady development.
AFP: I got a question on technology and the Netherlands. The Dutch chipmaker ASML says that a former employee in China stole chip technology data. ASML said it started an internal review. Do you have any comments on this?
Wang Wenbin: I am not aware of the specific case you mentioned. We would like to tell you, as a principle, that China has all along attached great importance to and made vigorous efforts for the protection of intellectual property, and we remain committed to providing fair and just protection to the lawful rights and interests of intellectual property rights holders, both Chinese and foreign.
Reuters: I just wanted to follow up on my question earlier about the transport of cargo between China and North Korea. The report talked about the transport of cargo from the Chinese city of Hunchun to the North Korean city of Rason or Luoxian. So I just want to ask whether the foreign ministry can confirm that this particular crossing is indeed open as this report describes.
Wang Wenbin: I just stated China’s position and have nothing further to share.
Dragon TV: It was reported that on the evening of February 15 local time, US Senate passed two resolutions, “condemning the use by the People’s Republic of China of a high-altitude surveillance balloon over the territory of the United States as a brazen violation of United States sovereignty”. What is your response?
Wang Wenbin: These resolutions do not reflect basic facts. They are purely meant to score political points and dramatize the situation. China strongly disapproves of and firmly opposes them. We strongly urge the US Congress to respect facts, respect the spirit of international law and the basic norms in international relations, immediately stop smearing China, and stop taking actions that may escalate the situation.