Q: There is a report saying that Chinese troops patrolled in Afghanistan last year. The Defence Ministry dismissed that. Is this also your understanding that this report is incorrect?
A: The Defence Ministry has made a clear statement on that, clarifying all the facts. Foreign media reports about Chinese troops and vehicles patrolling inside Afghanistan are incompatible with the facts. Information from the relevant department shows that law enforcement authorities of China and Afghanistan have conducted joint law enforcement operations along their shared borders in accordance with the agreement between the two sides on enhancing law enforcement cooperation in the border areas, for the purpose of guarding against and combatting terrorist activities and organized cross-border crimes.
Q: EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said yesterday that she agreed with what President Xi Jinping said at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting that no one will emerge as a winner in a trade war, adding that the EU is ready to join China in fighting protectionism worldwide. But she also said that China's big challenge this year would be to match rhetoric with reform. Many barriers and irritants remained in EU-China trade and economic relations which were far from balanced. What is China's comment on that?
A: As President Xi Jinping told the opening ceremony of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2017 last month, we must remain committed to developing global free trade and investment, promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation through opening-up and say no to protectionism. The reform and opening-up pursued by China over the past nearly 40 years has greatly energized the open global economy. The extensive and profound business cooperation between China and the EU, which aims at mutual benefit and win-win results, has come into fruition during the same period of time. The Chinese side upholds global trade and investment facilitation, opposes all forms of protectionism, and hopes that the EU will take a historical and long-term perspective in viewing the course of China's reform and opening-up.
We would like to restate here that China stays committed to opening wider to the outside world, providing foreign-invested enterprises with more opportunities to invest in China and creating a relaxed and orderly environment for investment and a level playing field. In the UN-released World Investment Report 2016, it is said that China remains the second most popular destination for investment worldwide. According to the Ministry of Commerce, the 28-state EU invested 41.3% more in China last year than the previous year.
Trade between China and the EU is developing on a solid foundation, boasting broad prospects. The Chinese side maintains that efforts should be made to tap the potential of China-EU trade cooperation and deepen practical cooperation in all aspects. China will work alongside the EU to jointly uphold a free and open multilateral trade system.
Q: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly told his ROK counterpart by phone that the US would continue with the deployment of THAAD. There have been a lot of reports recently about business activities of ROK companies in China being affected. Cosmetic products from the ROK are banned from sale in China, and ROK retailers like Lotte are inspected. Do you believe that the installation of THAAD will have a continued and deeper impact on the trade ties between China and the ROK?
A: You have been asking questions about THAAD almost every day these days. As we have been stressing, the Chinese side will not alter its firm opposition to the deployment of THAAD by the US and the ROK in the ROK.
As for whether the Chinese side has imposed any restriction on the ROK, my colleague has already given an answer. We have never heard of anything like that. What we have been doing is urging the relevant parties to call off the deployment so as to avoid further damage to China-ROK relations.
Q: China's former Vice Minister of Health, Dr. Huang Jiefu will attend a conference at the Vatican on organ trafficking. Will he meet with Vatican officials? Have China and the Vatican made any progress in establishing diplomatic ties?
A: My understanding is that Mr. Huang's attendance at the relevant conference has nothing to do with the development of China-Vatican relations. He is there for the conference.
I would like to reiterate China's position on developing relations with the Vatican, which is consistent and clear. The Chinese side is sincere about improving relations with the Vatican and has been working tirelessly to that end. There is an effective and smooth channel for communication between China and the Vatican. We will work with the Vatican to push for constant progress in both constructive dialogues and bilateral relations.
Q: Commander of US Pacific Command Adm. Harry Harris has reportedly offered to deploy the USS Zumwalt at Jeju Island of the ROK. Analysts say it is aimed at cutting off China's passage to the Pacific. The ROK Defence Ministry spokesperson also said that Seoul will consider it if the US side makes an official proposal. What is China's response to that?
A: We have noted the report. The Chinese side will watch closely any state-to-state interactions that may affect regional peace, security and stability. We believe that military cooperation between relevant countries in the region should be conducive to regional peace and stability, rather than the opposite. We will definitely say no to the relevant interaction if it undermines China's security interests.
Q: A report released by the Sunday Times said that the Japanese Embassy in London has been paying the Henry Jackson Society, a British think tank, 10,000 pounds per month to hype up "China threat" in the UK. Some former government and military officials of the UK are said to be involved in the deal. What is China's comment on that?
A: We have noted the relevant report but have not seen clarification by the Japanese side. If what is told in the report is true, I can only say that they are wasting their efforts doing so. Japan's credibility is called into question when it on the one hand calls for an improved relationship with China and throws mud at China on the other. We urge the Japanese side to correct its attitude toward China and work for the improvement of the bilateral relationship rather than the opposite.
As for the reason why figures mentioned in the report are willing to be used by others as weapons, you have to ask them for an answer. We are not interested in digging deep into that. We are glad to see that the golden era of China-UK relationship is gaining momentum and receiving warm support from all circles of the two countries. Suffice to say that those people's behavior does not represent the mainstream of China-UK relations, but runs counter to what people from the two countries aspire for.
Q: Regarding Foreign Minister Wang Yi's visits to Australia and New Zealand, has he set off? When will he arrive in the two countries respectively? What are expected from the visits?
A: We have released information about Foreign Minister Wang Yi's visits. He has already departed Beijing. We will keep you updated about his meetings and talks during the visits.
We have briefed you about the purpose of his visits. The 45th anniversary of China-Australia and China-New Zealand diplomatic ties that comes this year blesses the two pairs of relationship with new opportunities of development. Visits by Foreign Minister Wang Yi to the two countries at the beginning of the Chinese Lunar New Year indicate the importance attached by China to developing relations with them. During his visits, Foreign Minister Wang Yi will meet with leaders of the two countries, hold the fourth Foreign and Strategic Dialogue with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, and have talks with the New Zealand Foreign Minister. We hope to work with Australia and New Zealand to implement consensus reached between our leaders and move forward the comprehensive strategic partnerships with the two countries. Information about all the events will be given to you and your colleagues in a timely fashion.
Q: Will Dr. Huang Jiefu meet with Vatican officials during his visit?
A: I have answered that question. He is there for the conference which, to my understanding, has nothing to do with China-Vatican relations.
Q: In his telephone conversation with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, US Secretary of State Tillerson reaffirmed the US Defence Secretary's remarks about Diaoyu Dao falling within the geographical scope of Article 5 of Washington's mutual security treaty with Tokyo. What is China's comment on that?
A: You must be fairly clear about China's position on the issue of Diaoyu Dao. Altogether, Diaoyu Dao and its affiliated islands have made up an integral part of China since ancient times. These are historical facts that cannot be tampered. The so-called security treaty between the US and Japan was born of the Cold War, and must not harm the territorial sovereignty and legitimate rights and interests of China. We have already urged the US to take a responsible attitude and stop making false statements on the sovereignty issue of Diaoyu Dao, so as to avoid further complicating the issue and bringing unstable factors to the regional situation. The Japanese side has been seeking external support on this issue. Such an attempt is futile.
Q: Australian Foreign Minister Bishop reportedly said that Premier Li Keqiang is visiting Australia in March. What is your comment on that?
A: As I just said, this year marks the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Australia. The two sides share a strong political will to forge ahead with their comprehensive strategic partnership. Close high-level interactions between the two sides is part and parcel and an important driving force of the fine performance of the bilateral relationship. We will release details about arrangements for high-level exchanges in due course.