|Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Mao Ning’s Regular Press Conference on March 6, 2023|
Shenzhen TV: We have learned that Assistant Foreign Minister Nong Rong will attend the senior officials’ meetings on East Asia cooperation and visit Vietnam and Laos. Could you share information on that?
Mao Ning: From March 6 to 12, Assistant Foreign Minister Nong Rong will attend the ASEAN Plus Three (China, Japan and the Republic of Korea) Senior Officials’ Meeting (APT SOM), East Asia Summit Senior Officials’ Meeting (EAS SOM) in Jakarta, Indonesia and visit Vietnam and Laos.
This year marks the tenth anniversary of President Xi Jinping’s proposal of building a closer China-ASEAN community with a shared future and the Belt and Road Initiative, which presents us with new opportunities to grow ties between China and ASEAN countries and strengthen East Asia cooperation. During the meetings, participants will focus on the theme “ASEAN Matters: Epicentrum of Growth”, take stock of what has been achieved in East Asia cooperation, envision the future course of relevant mechanisms and exchange ideas on international and regional issues of shared interest, thus preparing the ground for the leaders’ meetings and foreign ministers’ meetings on East Asia cooperation to be held later this year. During his visit to Vietnam and Laos, Assistant Foreign Minister Nong will discuss with the two sides joint efforts to implement the important high-level common understandings, renew traditional friendship, consolidate political mutual trust, expand practical cooperation, and achieve new progress in China’s comprehensive strategic cooperation with the two countries.
CCTV: WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the “WHO continues to call for China to be transparent in sharing data”, adding that continued politicization of the origins research will make the task harder. What is your comment?
Mao Ning: China has actively supported and participated in global science-based COVID origins-tracing since day one. In the meantime, we have been firmly opposed to all forms of political manipulation on this issue. Since COVID-19 hit, China has twice received WHO experts to work together on origins-tracing, which led to a science-based, authoritative joint report and laid a solid foundation for global origins-tracing. After the WHO established the Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins on Novel Pathogens (SAGO), China recommended experts to join the group and organized events for Chinese experts to share research findings with the WHO Secretariat and SAGO. China has shared more data and research findings than any other country and contributed the most on origins-tracing.
Tracing the origins of the virus is a matter of science. This study should be and can only be conducted jointly by scientists around the world. For some time, the US has been politicizing, weaponizing and instrumentalizing the issue. The US has been spreading myths such as the “bio weapon” theory and “lab leak” theory without any supporting evidence, which has seriously poisoned the atmosphere for science-based global origins-tracing.
Identifying the origins of COVID is the common responsibility of all countries in the world. Experts of the WHO-China joint mission, after field trips to the lab in Wuhan and in-depth communication with researchers, reached the conclusion that “a laboratory origin of the pandemic was considered to be extremely unlikely”, and recommended that “related traceability research” should be conducted in “countries and regions” worldwide. The US, however, ignored these science-based conclusions and recommendations and kept pressurizing WHO into repeatedly demanding origins-tracing in China. It is quite clear what the US is trying to achieve. While claiming to take origins-tracing seriously, the US has never invited WHO expert groups to the US for joint study, or shared any early data. Instead, it has turned a blind eye to the world’s concerns about US bio-military bases at Fort Detrick and around the world.
Politicizing origins-tracing would only hamper science-based cooperation on the issue, disrupt united effort to combat the pandemic, and undermine global health governance mechanisms. We hope the WHO Secretariat will take a science-based, objective and just position, not let politicization get in the way, and carry out the origins-tracing study in the US, among other countries, and play a positive role in science-based global origins-tracing. We once again urge the US side to immediately stop political manipulation on this issue, respond to the world’s legitimate concerns soon, voluntarily share the data of suspected early cases in the US with the WHO, disclose information about its bio-labs at Fort Detrick and around the world, and give people of the world the truth they deserve.
Global Times: According to reports, on March 4, the IAEA and the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran issued a joint statement on the Iranian nuclear issue, in which both sides addressed the importance of taking steps in order to facilitate enhanced cooperation and recognized that such positive engagements can pave the way for wider agreements on advancing negotiations on resuming compliance with the JCPOA. What’s China’s comment?
Mao Ning: China commends Iran and the IAEA for agreeing to strengthen cooperation on the Iranian nuclear issue. We welcome their commitment to addressing the outstanding safeguards issues through dialogue and consultation and support the IAEA in implementing verification and monitoring activities in accordance with its mandate. We hope to see effective implementation of what has been agreed and that there will be an enabling atmosphere for the negotiations on the nuclear issue.
China has always believed that resuming the effective implementation of the JCPOA in its entirety is the right way to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue. The negotiations came to a standstill fundamentally because certain country tried to steer the negotiations in a way that would serve its own geopolitical agenda. Parties concerned need to all exercise restraint, support the IAEA’s dialogue and cooperation with Iran, and avoid actions that may escalate the situation. China will continue to promote dialogue and work for the political settlement of the Iranian nuclear issue.
Beijing Daily: Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida reportedly said on March 3 that the nuclear-contaminated water in Fukushima will be released into the ocean between spring and summer this year. He also said that for the reconstruction of Fukushima, the discharge process cannot be delayed. Japanese media reported on March 5 that TEPCO’s examination inside the shell of Unit 1 reactor of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station shows that debris from melt nuclear fuel had not been cleaned up and that strong nuclear radiation is detected. What’s China’s comment?
Mao Ning: We have noted relevant reports and are gravely concerned. In disregard of the strong concerns of people in Japan and the rest of the world, the Japanese government is set on pushing through the ocean discharge plan despite its obligations under international law. This is an irresponsible act that will endanger the global marine environment and people’s health.
Japan has stored more than 1.3 million tonnes of nuclear-contaminated water, which means its release into the ocean could take as long as 30 years. The water contains over 60 radionuclides, which will be carried through the ocean to all parts of the world in a decade, causing unforeseeable harm to marine environment and people’s health. Japan’s neighbors, including China, the ROK, the DPRK and Russia, and the Pacific island countries have repeatedly voiced their concerns and firm opposition to the ocean discharge plan.
I need to stress in particular that it is Japan’s duty under general international law and UNCLOS to prevent environmental pollution, minimize the hazardous effect, fully consult with the countries that might be affected, ensure transparency and engage in international cooperation.
We once again call on Japan to take all parties’ legitimate concerns seriously, fulfill its obligations, fully consult with the stakeholders and relevant international organizations, handle the nuclear-contaminated water in a science-based, open, transparent and safe manner, including by studying alternatives to ocean discharge, and fully subject itself to international oversight, so as to protect the only planet we humanity call home.
The Paper: We noted that US entrepreneur Bill Gates said at an interview that the US will not be successful at preventing China from having great chips; attempting to do so will only take away American jobs and chips sales. US economist David Goldman also said that the idea that the US can completely decouple from China is a fantasy, and that China will survive US sanctions against its semi-conductor industry. Do you have any comment?
Mao Ning: There have been many concerns and questions from the US business community since the US launched the CHIPS and Science Act. Business leaders and institutions have pointed to the fact that the US semi-conductor industry is highly dependent on the global supply chain; and that decoupling will not only be at odds with the laws of how this industry grows, but also cost the US a great deal both economically and technologically. Boston Consulting Group estimated that US companies could lose 18% of their global market share and 37% of revenues if the US completely bans semiconductor companies from selling to Chinese customers, resulting in a loss of 15,000 to 40,000 highly skilled jobs.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to be in the lead on the high-tech front, but the right way to achieve it is through fair competition, rather than doing whatever it takes just to maintain its tech hegemony and deprive other countries of their right to development, still less should the US seek selfish interests at the expense of the global industrial and supply chains and deal another blow to the already fragile world economy.
More importantly, China’s development is always built on our own strength. From the “two bombs and one satellite” project to manned spaceflight, quantum communication and the Beidou navigation system, facts have shown that curbs and bans will not stop China’s development, but will only strengthen China’s resolve and capability to seek self-reliance and technological innovation.
Reuters: Taiwan “defence minister” warned that the island has to be on alert for a “sudden entry” by the Chinese military into areas close to it amid the rising military tensions across the Taiwan Strait. Do you have any response?
Mao Ning: I need to first make clear that Taiwan is part of China and there is no such thing as a “defence minister” for Taiwan. Both sides of the Taiwan Strait are China’s territory. China will firmly defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
CCTV: It was reported that at the Session of the Human Rights Council in Switzerland on March 2, Nakatani Gen, Special Advisor to the Japanese Prime Minister, said that “Freedom, respect for human rights, and the rule of law, must also be protected in China, including in Hong Kong and Xinjiang. Japan is deeply concerned about the human rights situation in China, and again strongly urges China to take positive concrete actions to address this situation.” What is your response?
Mao Ning: Affairs related to Hong Kong and Xinjiang are purely China’s internal affairs. No foreign country has the right to interfere in those affairs. Human rights are no legitimate pretext for interfering in other countries’ internal affairs. As a country that once embraced militarism, waged wars of aggression, committed serious crimes against humanity, and was responsible for inflicting untold suffering on the region and the wider world, Japan needs to first and foremost reflect deeply on its historical crimes, stop trying to reverse the verdict on its history of aggression, and properly address issues left over from history such as the forced recruitment of “comfort women” and laborers, before lecturing others on human rights.
Reuters: Two US Senators are reportedly introducing a bill this week which will give the government the power to ban foreign tech products such as TikTok. What’s China’s comment?
Mao Ning: We’ve repeatedly made clear our position on this issue. To perpetuate its hegemony, the US habitually politicizes technology and trade issues and uses them as a tool and weapon in the name of national security. Such practice violates the principles of market economy and fair competition. China will closely follow relevant developments. We also support relevant companies in safeguarding their legitimate rights and interests.
Reuters: According to a report, some US officials are concerned that Chinese-made cranes operating at American ports could give Beijing a possible spying tool. What’s your response?
Mao Ning: That claim is entirely paranoia and meant to mislead the American public.
The following question was raised after the press conference: According to reports, today ROK Foreign Minister Park Jin formally announced a plan to have a third party pay the compensation to laborers forcibly recruited by Japan during WWII. What’s China’s comment?
Mao Ning: Forced recruitment and enslavement of laborers is a grave crime against humanitarian law committed by the Japanese militarism during its aggression and colonial rule against the people of Asian countries, including China and the ROK. The facts are backed by ironclad evidence and shall not be denied or altered. China has all along asked the Japanese government to properly handle relevant issues left over from history with an honest and responsible attitude, which requires Japan to face its history squarely and deeply reflect on it, and show its remorse for the historical crimes and respect for the victims through concrete actions. At the same time, Japan needs to shape a correct view of history among the younger generation. Only by doing so can Japan truly earn the trust of its Asian neighbors and the wider international community.
The first session of the 14th National People’s Congress (NPC) will invite Foreign Minister Qin Gang to hold a press conference on China’s foreign policy and foreign relations at Multi-functional Conference Hall, Media Center at 10:00 am on Tuesday, March 7. The regular press conference of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be adjourned on March 7 and resumed on Wednesday, March 8.