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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang's Daily Briefing Online on February 17, 2020

2020-02-17 18:50

State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi will be in Vientiane, the Laos from February 19 to 21 to co-chair the Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers' Meeting on Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) with Foreign Secretary Teodoro Lopez Locsin of current ASEAN-China country coordinator the Philippines. Other ASEAN foreign ministers will attend the meeting.

Invited by Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasith of the Laos, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi will co-chair the fifth Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Foreign Ministers' Meeting and pay a visit to the Laos.

I'd like to share some latest numbers with you. According to this morning's update from the National Health Commission (NHC), February 16 saw 1,425 patients cured and discharged from hospital in China's mainland, bringing the total number of cured cases to 10,844.

New confirmed cases in China excluding Hubei Province stood at 115 on February 16, marking a decline for the 13th consecutive day.

Q: Could you talk about the background and considerations for State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi's attendance at the ASEAN-China Special Foreign Ministers' Meeting on the novel coronavirus?

A: As close neighbors linked by mountains and rivers, China and ASEAN countries share the tradition of supporting each other through thick and thin. Back in 2003, the Special ASEAN-China Leaders Meeting on SARS was held in response to the outbreak. Since the COVID-19 epidemic broke out, China and ASEAN countries have been in close communication and collaboration. That the two sides have decided to hold a special foreign ministers' meeting within such a short period of time demonstrates our will and determination to overcome difficulties with concerted efforts.

State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi will talk about China's strong measures on countering the epidemic and exchange in-depth views on collaboration with ASEAN counterparts to advance joint prevention and control, maintain normal economic and social exchange, and explore launching a permanent mechanism on public health cooperation. By doing so, we will safeguard the health and safety of people in regional countries and contribute to global public health.

There will also be a China-ASEAN medical experts' meeting to be held in parallel with the foreign ministers' meeting.

Q: The Federal Register published a notice on February 14 that the US has decided to impose sanctions on six Chinese enterprises, three Russian ones, one in Iraq and one in Turkey pursuant to its Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act. I was wondering if you have any comment?

A: China has lodged stern representations with the US side. We firmly oppose unilateral sanctions and "long-arm jurisdiction" imposed by the US citing domestic law. We urge it to correct its mistake at once and withdraw the sanctions.

China is committed to strengthening the international non-proliferation regime, strictly fulfilling its international obligation on non-proliferation and maintaining communication and cooperation with other countries on the basis of mutual respect.

By contrast, in non-proliferation and other areas, the US has been obsessed with unilateralism. It wantonly imposes unilateral sanctions and "long-arm jurisdiction" on others, which has been rejected by the international community as it severely undermines other countries' interests and international efforts to address non-proliferation issues and safeguard peace and stability. The Iranian nuclear issue is a case in point. We urge the US to face squarely the international community's concerns and earnestly respect other countries' legitimate rights and interests.

Q: I wonder if you could share China's expectations of the upcoming Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Foreign Ministers' Meeting?

A: The Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) is the first new-type sub-regional framework initiated by riparian countries with extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. Since its establishment nearly four years ago, it has been developing rapidly with remarkable outcomes. China sets great store by this mechanism. Through this meeting, we look forward to in-depth discussions with LMC countries to review past experience, identify future priorities, advance the building of an LMC economic belt and foster an LMC community with a shared future.

Q: Reports have emerged that from the Cold War era to the early years of the 21st century, US intelligence controlled the Swiss company Crypto AG's encoding devices to spy on other countries while pocketing millions of dollars. The company sold the devices to foreign governments and companies. The machines were encrypted but US intelligence could crack the codes and intercept messages from more than 120 countries worldwide. What is your comment?

A: The new exposé reminds us of last Monday when the US indicted four Chinese military personnel on charges of hacking into an American credit reporting agency. As I responded to a related question last week, the US government and relevant departments, in violation of international law and basic norms governing international relations, have conducted large-scale, organized and indiscriminate cyber theft, tapping and surveillance on foreign governments, businesses and individuals, a fact already well-known to all.

The US, on the one hand, has been collecting nearly five billion mobile phone call records across the globe on a daily basis, eavesdropping on German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cellphone conversations for more than a decade, controlling over 3 million Chinese computers and implanting Trojan Horse in more than 3,600 Chinese websites on an annual basis. It is a tawdry trick that while doing so, it keeps playing victim of cyber attack, like a thief crying "stop thief". Its hypocrisy on the issue of cyber security could not be clearer. It has no honor and credibility to speak of in front of other countries.

Facts have proven time and again that as the largest state actor of espionage in the cyber space, the US is worthy of the name of "empire of hackers". The sky's the limit with the US when it comes to spying.

The dust has yet to settle over WikiLeaks and Snowden revelations. Explanations are still owed. Now the Crypto AG incident adds another to the tally, one more thing for the US to clarify to the world.

Q: Pakistan's National Assembly has passed a resolution supporting China in its battle against the new coronavirus outbreak. It also appreciated China's effective measures under the leadership of President Xi Jinping to deal with the situation. What's your comment?

A: China highly commends Pakistan for passing the resolution. China and Pakistan are close neighbors with a fine tradition of mutual assistance. This resolution once again fully demonstrates how the Chinese and Pakistani people share weal and woe, and once again proves that China and Pakistan are a community with a shared future. We stand together in times of difficulty and render mutual assistance to each other. We are deeply grateful for Pakistan's trust and confidence in us.

We are ready to strengthen cooperation with the international community including Pakistan to jointly tackle the epidemic and promote global public health. We also stand ready to strengthen communication and coordination with Pakistan in a highly responsible manner to safeguard the health and safety of Pakistanis in China.

Q: ASEAN issued a chairman's statement on February 15 expressing support for China's efforts against the NCP (COVID-19). I wonder if you have any comment?

A: China noted that in the chairman's statement ASEAN countries expressed support for the Chinese government and people in their tremendous endeavors to counter the outbreak of COVID-19, and affirmed their consistent policies of maintaining their economies and borders open.

China and ASEAN countries have the tradition of mutual assistance in times of adversity. Since the outbreak of the epidemic, the two sides have been in close communication and cooperation. On February 20, the two sides will hold the Special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers' Meeting on Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) to exchange in-depth views on jointly fighting against the epidemic to safeguard regional health security.

Q: Since the epidemic broke out, overseas Chinese have been actively providing support to China. Some say this is the result of mobilization efforts of the Chinese government. What do you say to this?

A: It is a noble Chinese tradition to always extend a helping hand to those in need. For people with Chinese roots, even if they are living at the other end of the world, their hearts are with the motherland.

Many overseas Chinese, whether with Chinese or foreign citizenship, have been contacting our embassies and consulates to express care and support. With their efforts, assistance in various means have poured in from over 200 countries and regions to help fight the virus.

One day before passing away, a 98-year-old Chinese who lived a frugal life donated 100 US dollars to Wuhan. We saw another working up a sweat in a freezing temperature organizing a fund-raising event. Several newly-graduates, when told donors' names are needed to clear customs, wrote down the words: daughters and sons of the Chinese nation. At fundraisers on campus, one student after another donated their gift money to help the motherland.

So many have stated the same readiness to do their utmost to help. We are deeply moved by their genuine and heartfelt compassion, and commend and appreciate their selfless support and generous assistance.

Adversity reveals a nation's cohesion and fighting spirit like nothing else. We have every confidence that with the strong leadership of the Chinese government, the solidarity of the Chinese people, the joint efforts of all Chinese descendants, and the understanding and support of the international community, we will prevail over the epidemic at an early date.

Q: Do you think this epidemic will affect China's trade, cooperation projects and cultural exchange with countries participating in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)? If so, what have you done to counter these impacts?

A: The outbreak has indeed posed a challenge to China's economy and foreign exchange. But it is only temporary. The Chinese economy has great resilience, potential and vitality. We have the confidence and capacity to defeat the virus.

We appreciate and laud the political and material assistance from BRI partners after the epidemic broke out. We will continue to work with them for high-quality BRI cooperation while jointly overcoming difficulties on the way ahead.

Q: There have been more confirmed cases of COVID-19 across Japan. An expert panel there believes that the country is in the early stage of an outbreak and it is becoming more difficult to control its spread. The Japanese government made it clear that the epidemic has reached a new stage and it will adjust approach and strengthen prevention and control measures. How do you comment on the spread of the disease in Japan? Will China step up cooperation with Japan? Are you prepared to offer support or assistance?

A: China is closely following the developments in Japan, and we completely relate to what they are going through.

Virus knows no border, but the worst of times reveals the best in people. Stronger international cooperation, especially between neighbors, is needed to jointly tackle this challenge. The Japanese government and people from all walks of life have offered sincere support and assistance to China. We will never forget this and is deeply grateful. The situation in China is still severe. While making strenuous efforts to counter the epidemic at home, we stand ready to share further information and experience with Japan and assist it to the best of our capabilities as the need arises. In fact, specific arrangements are already being made in this regard.

We will remain in close communication and coordination with Japan and strengthen cooperation in epidemic control to jointly protect lives and health of our peoples and uphold regional and global public health security.

Q: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi in a meeting on February 14 that although China has achieved rapid development, NATO does not see China as an adversary and stands ready to strengthen relations with it. What is your comment?

A: We've already issued a press release on State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi's meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. You may refer to it.

I want to stress that China is committed to peaceful development and win-win cooperation and adheres to a national defense policy that is defensive in nature. There is no geopolitical conflict or competition between China and NATO members. We appreciate Secretary General Stoltenberg's remarks that NATO does not see China as an adversary, and note NATO's readiness to enhance ties with China.

We hope that NATO will continue to foster a correct view of China and regard it as a friend and partner. China stands ready to strengthen dialogue and cooperation with NATO on the basis of equality and mutual respect.

Q: Can you confirm that the rule requiring a 14-day quarantine for anyone returning to Beijing also applies to foreigners and people traveling from overseas? If so, can you share any details about how this will be enforced and the consequences of breaking it? Another question, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said after talks with Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Sunday that China should not label all Muslim ethnic Uighurs as terrorists. Does China have a response to his comments?

A: On your first question, the Leading Group of Beijing New Coronavirus Pneumonia Epidemic Prevention and Control Office has issued an announcement. I would refer you to the competent authorities of Beijing for details.

On you second question, China has issued a press release on State Councilor Wang Yi's meeting with Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on the sidelines of the MSC. You can look it up.

I want to stress that China follows a system of regional autonomy for ethnic minorities. All ethnic groups are equal and pursue prosperity and development together with their legal rights and interests guaranteed. Issues about Xinjiang are never about human rights or religion. They are about countering separatism and violent terrorism. The counter-terrorism and de-radicalization measures Xinjiang has taken have effectively protected the right to subsistence and development of all ethnic groups there and have won general approval from the international community including Islamic countries.

Q: Media say WHO experts arrived in Beijing yesterday and held the first meeting with Chinese experts. Can you confirm that and tell us who are on the foreign expert panel? Are there any American experts? Which three provinces will the joint mission visit?

A: As far as I know, the foreign experts in the China-WHO Joint Mission have arrived in Beijing and started their work. There are experts from the US in the mission. They will conduct field trips in Beijing, Guangdong and Sichuan.

As for the details, I would refer you to the NHC.

Q: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper lambasted China's social system and domestic and foreign policy at the 56th Munich Security Conference, leveling groundless accusations on issues including Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the South China Sea, and alleging Chinese infiltration in US federal and local governments. What's your comment?

A: Secretary Pompeo and Secretary Esper went all out to discredit the CPC, China's political system and domestic and foreign policy at the Munich Security Conference. These attempts to spread political falsehoods to the world reveal their shocking ignorance, prejudice and hypocrisy. But people are not to be fooled so easily. Just as State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi refuted then and there, all the US accusations against China are lies, not facts.

I want to stress that China follows the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics and has achieved enormous success. The leadership of the CPC, its defining feature, is a historical choice made by the Chinese people. We will stay true to it and forge ahead for greater progress. Anyone seeking to stand in our way should think twice.

China follows the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence when developing friendly state-to-state relations. At the same time, we resolutely defend our sovereignty and legitimate security and development interests. Taiwan and Hong Kong are purely domestic affairs that allow no foreign interference. Chinese sovereignty over Nansha Islands and relevant waters are supported by ample historical and legal basis. That being said, we stand for resolving differences through dialogue and consultation by parties directly concerned. Mr. Pompeo and others confused right and wrong and made up lies in an attempt to interfere in China's internal affairs, disrupt its stability and development, and poison its relations with other countries. Such tricks are bound to fail.

China always acts in accordance with international law and bilateral agreements with the US when interacting with US governments at all levels, the purpose of which is to promote mutual understanding, exchange and cooperation, thus legitimate, lawful, open, aboveboard, and beyond reproach.

This is the third time in a week that Mr. Pompeo has made negative comments on China. He would keep up the anti-China rattle wherever he goes. This is hardly what one expects in a secretary of state of a major country in the 21st century. Rather it would fit the behavior of a politician in the Cold War era better. We advise Mr. Pompeo and his likes to discard their zero-sum and Cold War mindset and ideological prejudice, stop attacking China's political system and domestic and foreign policies, stop undermining normal exchange and cooperation, and focus more on tasks befitting his role as secretary of state.

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