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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian's Regular Press Conference on May 20, 2021

Xinhua News Agency: This morning, the MFA website released the information that President Xi Jinping will attend the Global Health Summit to be jointly held by President of the G20 Italy and the European Commission via video link. Can you tell us more about it? What is China's expectation of the summit?

Zhao Lijian: At the invitation of the Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, President Xi Jinping will attend the Global Health Summit on May 21 via video link. With the resurgence and spread of COVID-19 in many parts of the world, the international cooperation against the virus is at a critical juncture. China hopes that the Global Health Summit will give full play to the role of the G20 as an important platform of global response to crisis and sustain G20's positive momentum of leading global cooperation in fighting COVID-19. We expect the summit to send a strong signal of upholding multilateralism and advancing solidarity and cooperation, and inject confidence and impetus into the early victory over the virus and improvement of global health governance, so as to jointly build a global community of health for all.

The Paper: It is learned that Zhai Jun, China's special envoy for Middle East affairs, had telephone conversations with officials of the Palestinian and Egyptian foreign ministries to promote the deescalation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Can you brief us on what China has done to ease the tensions between Palestine and Israel?

Zhao Lijian: Since the outbreak of the Palestine-Israel conflict, China has played the role of a responsible major country and done a lot of constructive work. As the rotating president of the UN Security Council, China has given top priority to addressing the current Palestine-Israel conflict. State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi chaired an open debate on the issue at the Security Council and put forward China's views and proposals. China has made every effort to urge the Security Council to speak with one voice and take concrete actions. However, because of the US obstruction, the Security Council has yet to reach a consensus so far.

China has not stopped its efforts for peace. China has actively participated in mediation and good offices through its own channels and in its own way. Recently, Zhai Jun, Special Envoy of the Chinese Government for the Middle East, had telephone conversations with officials of the Palestinian and Egyptian foreign ministries respectively and conducted active mediation. He called for an immediate ceasefire, stop of violence and more assistance to Palestine, and reaffirmed the firm commitment to the "two-state solution". The special envoy will also have telephone conversations with people from Israel, Russia, the UN and the EU. As long as the conflict in the Middle East continues, China will not stop its efforts to promote peace talks. In the future, China will also host seminars for Palestinian and Israeli peace advocates and welcome representatives from Palestine and Israel to come to China for direct negotiations.

China appreciates the mediation efforts for a ceasefire by Egypt and other relevant parties. We stand ready to strengthen communication and coordination with all parties to make concerted efforts for peace, and to do our best to provide humanitarian and other assistance to Palestine.

CCTV: On May 18, Vice Premier Han Zheng attended the Summit on the Financing of African Economies via video link. Yesterday, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi chaired the UNSC high-level open debate on peace and security in Africa. What is China's view on promoting post-pandemic recovery and advancing peace, security and development in Africa in the post-COVID-19 era?

Zhao Lijian: China and Africa have always been good brothers and good partners sharing weal and woe, and a community with a shared future. With the severe challenges to Africa's peace and development posed by the once-in-a-century pandemic, China always cares about the wellbeing of our African brothers and is committed to promoting peace, security and development in Africa. On the evening of May 18, Vice Premier Han Zheng attended and addressed the Summit on the Financing of African Economies via video link, putting forward China's proposals on sustaining and resuming the momentum of Africa's development. Yesterday, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi chaired the UN Security Council high-level open debate on peace and security in Africa, and put forward a four-point proposal on promoting post-epidemic recovery and removing the root causes of conflicts in Africa.

China believes that, first of all, the international community should provide more assistance to Africa in terms of anti-epidemic supplies, medicines, technologies and funds. All countries with the capacity to do so should offer direly needed vaccines to Africa, ensure the accessibility and affordability of vaccines in Africa, and help bridge the "response divide" in Africa.

The UN and the African Union should work closely together to advance in parallel tracks the two initiatives of "Global Ceasefire" and "Silence the Guns in Africa". At the same time, we need to support African countries to solve African issues in African ways, firmly oppose unjustifiable interference by external forces in African countries, and help Africa solve its "peace deficit".

We need to support African countries in exploring development paths suited to their national conditions and help them narrow the "development gap". Developed countries should take concrete measures in such areas as debt relief, development assistance and technology transfer to fulfill their due international responsibilities.

The international community should attach importance to the representation and voice of African countries in international affairs to help them redress "governance injustices". Equality in rights, opportunities and rules-making among countries cannot be achieved without the participation of African countries. This is also an inherent requirement of multilateralism.

China has always been a staunch supporter of Africa's fight against the epidemic, an active participant in Africa's development and revitalization, and a strong defender of peace and stability. As long as something is beneficial to African countries, China will never be absent. As long as some work delivers benefits to the African people, China will not hesitate to do it. After consultation between China and Africa, we jointly launched an initiative on the partnership to support Africa's development, which aims to support Africa's post-epidemic recovery, development and revitalization. We call on the international community to step up support for Africa in epidemic response, post-epidemic recovery, trade and investment, debt relief and other areas. We welcome more countries and international organizations to join the initiative. We are ready to stand together with our African brothers through thick and thin and work with international partners to play a positive role in promoting peace and security in Africa and make unremitting efforts to build a community with a shared future for mankind.

Reuters: A US military spokesman told Reuters that a PLA statement claiming to have expelled the USS Curtis Wilbur is false and that the ship was not expelled from any nation's territory. Does China have a response?

Zhao Lijian: The PLA Southern Theater Command has mobilized naval and air forces to track and monitor the relevant vessel and warned it off. The spokesperson of the PLA Southern Theater Command already made remarks on the issue.

The US side wantonly entered China's territorial waters off Xisha Islands without approval by the Chinese government, infringing upon China's sovereignty and security and undermining peace and stability in the South China Sea region. China firmly opposes it. China urges the US side to immediately stop provocations that violate our rights, and will continue to take necessary measures to firmly uphold national sovereignty and security and safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea.

Reuters: EU lawmakers believe that China must remove sanctions on certain EU politicians before the investment accord can go ahead. Will China consider removing the sanctions?

Zhao Lijian: I am not sure if you attended the press conference yesterday. I already elaborated on China's principled position on this issue.

Beijing Youth Daily: Yesterday, the China National Space Administration released footages that capture the moment the lander and the rover separated from the orbiter during landing on Mars as well as photos taken by the rover. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson issued a statement saying "Congratulations to the China National Space Administration on receiving the first images from the Zhurong Mars rover! ...the United States and the world look forward to the discoveries Zhurong will make to advance humanity's knowledge of the Red Planet." What's your comment on this?

Zhao Lijian: Like you all, I have been looking forward to seeing the landscape on Mars via the lens of Zhurong rover.

On May 15, the lander of the Tianwen-1 mission touched down at the intended landing spot in southern Utopia Planitia and the rover established communication with Earth. On May 17, after completing four near-Mars trajectory correction maneuvers, the orbiter entered the relay orbit, thus providing a communication link to relay communication between the rover and Earth. Afterwards, images and data were sent back. Yesterday, we saw the first photo taken by Zhurong after landing, which marks the smooth start of its exploration work on the surface of Mars. As we speak, the rover is preparing to leave the landing platform, and will seek an opportunity to drive onto the Martian surface and begin cruising and exploration.

China's first Mars mission has drawn extensive attention. China will continue to promote international cooperation in an open and inclusive manner in the spirit of serving the well-being of all mankind, and make greater contributions to the noble cause of exploring the mysteries of the universe and promoting peace and development of mankind.

From Chang'e lunar mission to Tianwen-1 Mars mission, the Chinese nation continues its journey to explore the outer space. Flying hundreds of millions of miles, Zhurong carries with it the Chinese people's long-cherished space dream. Today is May 20, a special day for love in China. We hope the Zhurong rover, with deep love for the immense universe, will send back more good news of exciting discoveries.

Reuters: Samoa's opposition party leader has told Reuters that she plans to shelve the China-backed Vaiusu Bay Port project, saying that there are more pressing needs than building the new port. What's your comment?

Zhao Lijian: At the request of the Samoan government, China is now discussing with the Samoan side the feasibility of the construction of Vaiusu Port, with an aim to improve Samoa's infrastructure, boost local economic development and create jobs.

What I want to stress is that China always follows the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind and the principle of sincerity, real results, amity and good faith in advancing mutually-beneficial cooperation with Samoa and other Pacific island countries, and provide assistance to the best of its ability with no political strings attached. Our bilateral cooperation is based on mutual respect and equal consultation, and plays a positive role in promoting economic and social development and livelihood improvement in island countries.

Shenzhen TV: China and the Philippines will soon hold the sixth meeting of the bilateral consultation mechanism (BCM) on the South China Sea. Can you provide more details?

Zhao Lijian: China and the Philippines established the bilateral consultation mechanism (BCM) on the South China Sea in 2017 to discuss confidence-building measures and promote maritime security and cooperation. In the previous five BCM meetings, the two sides had in-depth communication and dialogue on maritime issues between them, properly handled maritime disputes, and advanced exchanges and cooperation in such areas as search and rescue, maritime safety, oil and gas development and marine fisheries. The meetings played an active role in promoting the sound and steady development of bilateral ties and upholding peace and stability in the South China Sea.

As agreed upon by the two sides, the sixth meeting of the BCM will be held online tomorrow. Chinese Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Wu Jianghao and Philippine Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Elizabeth Buensuceso will lead delegations of representatives from such sectors as foreign affairs, national defense, natural resources, agriculture and ecological environment to attend the meeting. They will exchange views on the current situation in the South China Sea and maritime issues between the two countries, and discuss ways to further expand exchanges and cooperation on maritime search and rescue, fisheries, ecological conservation, scientific research and other areas. We hope this meeting will produce positive outcomes.

China Daily: We noted that the Chinese medical expert team returned to China on May 18 after completing its mission in Laos. Could you tell us more details?

Zhao Lijian: At the request of the Lao government, the Chinese side sent another anti-epidemic medical expert team to Laos on May 4. During their stay till May 18, the expert team established cooperation and coordination mechanisms with the Lao side, visited five provinces and cities, and helped the Lao side improve the prevention and control mechanism and the diagnosis and treatment process. It also visited China-Laos cooperation projects for many times to guide the prevention and control work. Their work has been highly commended by the Lao side, and relevant suggestions readily adopted.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Laos as well as the Year of China-Laos Friendship. The urgent dispatch of Chinese medical experts to Laos to share experience with the Lao people and join them in the fight against the epidemic again illustrates the spirit of the China-Laos community with a shared future featuring mutual assistance amid difficulties. Guided by the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind, China will continue to provide support to the best of its ability to Laos and other countries in the region so as to jointly prevail over the epidemic at an early date.

Reuters: Australia's trade minister said that ships carrying Australian grapes to China were stuck at the border. Can China confirm that there have been delays?

Zhao Lijian: I don't have anything to offer on the issue you mentioned and would like to refer you to competent authorities.

Reuters: Reuters has learned that last month a Chinese company shipped jet fuel to Myanmar. Does China have a response?

Zhao Lijian: I am not aware of the specific situation you mentioned. I would refer you to competent authorities. China's friendship policy toward Myanmar is for all the people of Myanmar. No matter how the situation evolves, China will not waver in its commitment to advancing China-Myanmar relations, and will not change the course of promoting friendship and cooperation. As Myanmar's long-standing "pauk-phaw" that shares the same future, China has always carried out practical cooperation with Myanmar in accordance with the principle of equal-footed consultation for mutual benefit and win-win results to boost Myanmar's economic and social development and deliver benefits to Myanmar's people.

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