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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin’s Regular Press Conference on February 13, 2023

2023-02-13 23:26

At the invitation of the governments of France, Italy, Hungary and Russia, Member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs Wang Yi will visit France, Italy, Hungary and Russia from February 14 to 22. He will also attend the 59th Munich Security Conference and deliver a speech at its China session to communicate the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security advocated by President Xi Jinping, make clear China’s abiding commitment to peaceful development and share China’s position on major international issues in light of the theme of the Conference.

At the invitation of the governments of South Africa and Greece, Vice Premier of the State Council Sun Chunlan will visit South Africa and Greece and hold the third meeting of the China-South Africa High-Level People-to-People Exchange Mechanism from February 15 to 22.

NBC: The United States has now shot down four flying objects in US and Canadian airspace, one of which was a balloon claimed by China. Can you confirm that any or all of the three other objects also belong to China or is this just a coincidence? 

Wang Wenbin: We have made it clear time and again that the entry of the Chinese civilian unmanned airship into US airspace was a purely unintended, unexpected and isolated event caused by force majeure. 

As to the “unidentified objects” you asked about, I do not have anything on that. We do need to point out, however, that the US’s downing of the unmanned airship with advanced missiles is a trigger-happy overreaction. Many in the US have been asking: what good can such costly action possibly bring to the US and its taxpayers?  

As a matter of fact, it is the US who is the No.1 surveillance country and has the largest spy network in the world.

The US National Security Agency spied on calls and chat messages to and from the phones of leaders of Germany, France, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands and other European countries. The US has been operating a highly secretive signals intelligence collection program through almost a hundred US embassies and consulates worldwide. Anzer, a cybersecurity information platform, revealed last year that the NSA stole more than 97 billion pieces of global internet data and 124 billion phone records in 30 days, compromising the privacy of citizens across the world. Namibia recently found in its waters a US saildrone used to gather data underwater, and local media generally believe it to be an American spy drone. The US knows how many surveillance balloons it has sent into the skies in the world. It’s quite clear to the global community which country is the No.1 spy empire in the world. 

Follow-up: Does China deny that any or all of the three objects that have been shot down in recent days belong to China, or is it just a coincidence? 

Wang Wenbin: As I just said, I do not have anything on that. We believe that no irresponsible comments should be made when there is no clear evidence. And we are absolutely opposed to made-up stories and smears against China.

China Daily: Can you share with us the purpose of and considerations for the visit to Europe and attendance at the Munich Security Conference by Member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs Wang Yi? 

Wang Wenbin: This year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of comprehensive strategic partnership between China and the EU. This visit to Europe by Member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs Wang Yi will be the beginning of China-EU high-level exchange this year. France, Italy and Hungary are all important cooperation partners for China in Europe. During the visit, Wang Yi will have in-depth strategic communication with the political figures of the three countries, work for new progress in bilateral relations, promote China-EU strategic mutual trust, and exchange views on major international issues.

The Munich Security Conference is an annual forum on international strategic and security policies with major global influence. Amid change and disorder and geopolitical tensions in the world, Wang Yi will outline China’s proposition about promoting world peace and security at the conference.

Sky News: Firstly in relation to those three separate unidentified objects that have been shot down over America and Canada in recent days. Although neither the Americans nor the Canadians have officially said what they are or where they come from, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says he thinks it’s likely that they are a fleet of balloons from China. Can you respond directly to that accusation? And secondly, if I may. There have been reports that China is preparing to shoot down an unidentified object around the port of Qingdao. Can I ask why such action is being considered given the fact that when the Americans took similar action in what feel to be quite similar circumstances, China has described that as a serious overreaction and a violation of international conventions?

Wang Wenbin: I have answered your first question. We are opposed to made-up stories and smears against China. 

On your second question, the relevant Chinese department has released the notice. I would refer you to the relevant department.

CCTV: China announced yesterday that Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi will pay a state visit to China. Can you share more about the program of the visit? What’s your expectation for the visit? And how does China view the current China-Iran relations? 

Wang Wenbin: This visit will be President Raisi’s first visit to China after taking office. During the visit, President Xi Jinping will hold talks with President Raisi to jointly provide planning and guidance for the development of bilateral relations, and have an in-depth exchange of views on regional and international issues of shared interest. Premier Li Keqiang and Chairman Li Zhanshu will also meet with President Raisi respectively.

China and Iran enjoy a traditional friendship. Consolidating and developing relations is the strategic choice made by both sides. In recent years, under the guidance of President Xi and President Raisi, China-Iran relations have maintained the momentum of sound growth, featuring stronger political mutual trust, steady progress in practical cooperation in various fields, and sound communication and coordination in international and regional affairs in defense of the principle of non-interference in internal affairs and the common interest of developing countries. China looks forward to working with Iran to take this visit as an opportunity to make greater progress in China-Iran comprehensive strategic partnership, and play a constructive role in enhancing solidarity and cooperation between countries in the Middle East and promoting regional security and stability.

Yonhap News Agency: The ROK resumes issuing short-term visas to the ROK for Chinese citizens from February 11. The Foreign Ministry spokesman said last week that China will consider resuming the review of short-term visas for ROK citizens. Can you share with us the specific plan?

Wang Wenbin: By lifting visa restrictions against China, the ROK has taken a right step towards reducing obstacles hindering cross-border travel between the two countries. China is carefully reviewing the matter.

Reuters: Does last week’s balloon belong to a Chinese company? I’m talking about the one that was shot down initially that then fell all over the sea close to the USA.

Wang Wenbin: We have made it clear several times that the unintended entry of China’s civilian unmanned airship into US airspace is an entirely unexpected, isolated event caused by force majeure. The US downing of the airship is an abuse of the use of force and overreaction. We are firmly opposed to it.

CCTV: Can you share with us the purpose for and considerations of the visit to Russia by Member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and Director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs Wang Yi? 

Wang Wenbin: China and Russia are comprehensive strategic partners of coordination for a new era. In recent years, under the strategic guidance of the two heads of state, China-Russia relations have maintained the momentum of sound and steady development and cooperation in various areas has yielded fruitful outcomes. 

During the visit, Wang Yi will have an in-depth exchange of views on the growth of China-Russia relations going forward and international and regional hotspot issues of shared interest. China is ready to take this visit as an opportunity and work with Russia to promote steady growth of bilateral relations in the direction identified by the two heads of state, defend the legitimate rights and interests of both sides, and play an active role for world peace.

AFP: I have another question regarding China’s balloon shot down by the US ten days ago. The foreign ministry said it was for civilian use. Can you tell us which entity it belongs to?

Wang Wenbin: We’ve stated repeatedly our position on the unmanned airship’s unintended entry into US airspace. But let me share with you some facts. Over the years, the US has been engaged in massive, non-discriminate wiretapping and secret theft operations globally, including against its allies, by abusing its tech advantage. These operations violate the sovereignty and interests of countries around the world, the international law and basic norms governing international relations, which makes the US the absolute No.1 country in terms of spying and surveillance. 

The US military vessels and aircraft conduct frequent close-in reconnaissance on China, including 657 sorties last year and 64 sorties in January this year in the South China Sea alone, which seriously undermines China’s national security and regional peace and stability. US balloons have often entered other countries’ airspace illegally. Since last year, US high-altitude balloons have flown over Chinese airspace over ten times without authorization from China. The US needs to reflect on its own behavior and change course rather than attacking others and stoking confrontation.

China News Service: Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen wrapped up his successful visit to China on February 11. How does China see this visit? 

Wang Wenbin: Prime Minister Hun Sen is an old friend familiar to the Chinese people and the first foreign leader received by China since the Spring Festival this year. His last visit to China was in early 2020 just after China was hit by COVID-19. Three years later, he visited China again on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of diplomatic ties and the “China-Cambodia Friendship Year”. Both sides attached high importance to this visit.

On February 10, President Xi Jinping had a warm meeting with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. They had a long, deep-going exchange, and drew a blueprint for the future course of China-Cambodia relations. Premier Li Keqiang and Chairman Li Zhanshu held talks and met with Prime Minister Hun Sen respectively. The two sides issued a productive joint statement, announced the launch of the “China-Cambodia Friendship Year”, held the China-Cambodia Economic Forum on Trade, Investment and Tourism, and signed 12 cooperation documents in the fields of foreign affairs, economic and trade cooperation, development cooperation, agricultural exports to China, infrastructure and so on.

Both sides agreed that no matter how the international situation changes, the two sides will unswervingly deepen their close ironclad friendship and jointly usher in a new era of building a high-quality, high-level and high-standard China-Cambodia Community with a Shared Future. The Chinese side reaffirmed resolute support for Cambodian people’s independent choice of development path that suits Cambodia’s national conditions, for Cambodia’s endeavors to safeguard her sovereignty and security, and for steady advancement of important Cambodian national political agenda and socioeconomic development while expressing firm opposition to any foreign interference in Cambodia’s internal affairs. The Cambodian side said that they hoped to convey a clear message that the Cambodian people have always stood firmly with the Chinese people. Cambodia opposes any attempt to interfere in China’s internal affairs or to block and contain China under the subterfuge of Taiwan and resolutely supports China’s every effort to achieve national reunification. 

The two sides agreed to focus on the six areas including politics, production capacity, agriculture, energy, security and people-to-people exchange to build a “diamond hexagon” cooperation framework between China and Cambodia. The two sides agreed to uphold true multilateralism, jointly safeguard international fairness and justice, oppose hegemonism, power politics, and exclusive bloc politics which targets specific countries. The two countries call on relevant parties to carry forward the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) fully and effectively, and reach an early conclusion on a substantive and effective Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC). Both sides stressed that any attempt to use the South China Sea issue to undermine regional peace and trust is counterproductive and should be avoided.

It is our belief that under the strategic guidance from the high level of both countries, the China-Cambodia relations will grow from strength to strength, and the ironclad friendship between the two countries will be even more unbreakable, bringing more benefits to the peoples of both countries and contributing more to the peace, stability and development in the region.

Asahi Shimbun: As the balloon issue is escalating, are China and the US engaging in negotiations to avoid conflict?

Wang Wenbin: China and the US have maintained necessary communication. What is important is to properly handle this unexpected situation caused by force majeure in a calm, professional and restrained manner.

Anadolu Agency: On the weekend, we heard news from Türkiye and Syria that Chinese rescue teams were working on the clock in areas hit by earthquakes and saving lives with Turkish and international organizations. And there were also Chinese rescuers in affected areas in Syria. I want to learn what’s the latest about the rescue and aid efforts for the earthquakes.

Wang Wenbin: Since Türkiye and Syria were struck by strong earthquakes, China has been providing support and assistance for the two countries. As we have learned, the first shipment of relief supplies provided by the Chinese government to Türkiye, including blankets and tents urgently needed in the quake-hit areas, arrived in Istanbul on February 11 and 12. The China Rescue Team dispatched by the Chinese government and civil emergency response teams have rescued more than 20 survivors. Electrocardiogram machines, ultrasonic diagnostics, medical transport vehicles and manual hospital beds provided by China will be delivered within this week. Humanitarian supplies for Syria provided by the Chinese government are being shipped out against the clock. Supplies including 30,000 first aid kits, 20,000 blankets, 10,000 cotton coats, 300 cotton tents and respirators, anesthesia machines and oxygen generators will soon be delivered. Besides, China’s ongoing food aid program will be implemented at a faster pace. Up to 220 tonnes of wheat is on the way to Syria, and the remaining more than 3,000 tonnes of rice and wheat will be delivered in batches this month. The first shipment of medical supplies provided by the Red Cross Society of China has arrived in Damascus, and the second shipment of humanitarian supplies departed from Beijing on February 13, which includes necessities like cotton tents, family kits and windproof jackets and medical supplies like much-needed medicine, benefiting more than 10,000 people affected by the disaster.

We are always there to help when others are in trouble. China will continue to work with the international community to actively support and help the people of Türkiye and Syria to overcome the disaster and rebuild their home at an early date.

Bloomberg: Just on your comments earlier. I wonder if I could ask you just to elaborate a little bit more slowly about the numbers that you mentioned about US balloons flying over China. Did you say more than ten? And if so, can you be a little bit more precise? Was it ten or more than ten? And if so, what the number is? And also can you clarify the period? Did you mean in 2023 so far? Or was it in the last 12 months? 

Wang Wenbin: There is a great deal of interest in this matter. We would like to reiterate that it is the US who has been abusing its technological strength and engaged in massive, indiscriminate wiretapping and secret theft globally, including on its allies, and it is the US who has been frequently sending military vessels and aircraft for close-in reconnaissance on China in violation of our sovereignty.

It’s not uncommon for US balloons to illegally enter other countries’ airspace. Since the beginning of last year, US high-altitude balloons have flown into China’s airspace more than ten times without Chinese authorization. The US needs to change course and reflect on itself rather than smear and accuse China.

Sky News: I have a question about the debris that the Americans have collected from the first balloon that was shot down on February 4. The Americans say they can now confidently state that they believe it was fitted with surveillance capabilities. And China has made very clear it rejects that accusation. But can I ask why you think the Americans have come to this assessment? Do you think they have simply misinterpreted what they gathered? Or do you believe that they’re just making it up? 

Wang Wenbin: Perhaps you should ask the US. One fact is clear: the US Department of Defense stated itself that the balloon did not pose a military or physical threat to people on the ground. Plus US lawmakers have said that this incident does not pose a threat to the US. So you really need to ask the US why it still decided to fire advanced missiles at it and what else can it be described as other than an overreaction.

Reuters: You just said Wang Yi will visit Russia. Will Ukraine be raised during the talks in Russia? Also, is there a plan for him to visit Ukraine soon?

Wang Wenbin: China and Ukraine have smooth diplomatic channels of communication. As to the topics to be discussed during Wang Yi’s visit to Russia, as I have said, he will have an in-depth exchange of views on the next steps to advance China-Russia relations and international and regional hotspot issues of shared interest.

Dragon TV: Recently the US government has temporarily eased sanctions on Syria, which only authorizes for 180 days all transactions related to earthquake relief that would be otherwise prohibited. What’s your comment on this?

Wang Wenbin: The US government should put an immediate end to its unilateral sanctions on Syria, rather than stage a political stunt with this temporary easing of sanctions. 

The US’s long-running military interventions and unilateral sanctions on Syria have severely aggravated the economic and livelihood woes in Syria and greatly undercut the Syrian government’s resilience to disasters. The US sanctions have badly hampered the rescue efforts within the 72-hour “golden window” for rescue after the earthquake hit Syria, which made the situation on the ground even worse. As those in Syria have noted, it’s natural that the US politicizes the situation, for whom there is no humanitarianism, neither now nor in the past.

We urge the US government to put aside its geopolitical calculations, immediately lift its unilateral sanctions on Syria and stop creating humanitarian disasters. 

The Wall Street Journal: I just have a question about the Commerce Department’s decision to blacklist six Chinese companies in relation to the alleged balloon surveillance program. What is China’s comment on this, first of all? And what kinds of reciprocal measures might we expect from China in relation to this? 

Wang Wenbin: China’s always firmly opposed to the US’s illegal unilateral sanctions and long-arm jurisdiction against Chinese institutions, companies and individuals.

The unintended entry of China’s civilian unmanned airship into US airspace is an entirely unexpected, isolated event caused by force majeure, and the Chinese side has time and again explained this to the US side, yet the US overreacted by abusing the use of force and escalating the situation, which is against the spirit of international law and customary practice. The US has also been hyping up the situation and pushing the envelope by using it as an excuse to impose illegal sanctions over Chinese companies and institutions. China strongly disapproves of and firmly opposes this.

We will do what is necessary to defend the lawful rights and interests of Chinese companies and institutions.

AFP: The Philippine Coast Guard has accused a Chinese Coast Guard ship of directing laser at one of its vessels. Are you aware of this incident?

Wang Wenbin: The Ren’ai Reef is part of China’s Nansha Islands. On February 6, a Philippine Coast Guard vessel intruded into the waters off the Ren’ai Reef without Chinese permission. In accordance with China’s domestic law and international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the China Coast Guard ship upheld China’s sovereignty and maritime order and acted in a professional and restrained way. We hope the Philippine side will respect China’s territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea and avoid taking any actions that may exacerbate disputes and complicate the situation. China and the Philippines are in communication on this through diplomatic channels.

Bloomberg: A question relating to the UK. The UK is said to undertake a security review following the incursion of Chinese balloons into Western airspace. Does the Chinese foreign ministry have a comment on the UK plan?

Wang Wenbin: We have made our position clear on the incident. It should be viewed in an objective way and there should be no dramatizing about it.

Bloomberg: A question on Zambia. Zambia’s finance minister has rejected China’s call for the World Bank and other multilateral lenders to join the restructuring of the country’s debt. Does the foreign ministry have any comment on Zambia’s finance minister’s rejection of China’s call for the World Bank and other multilateral lenders’ participation?

Wang Wenbin: China attaches high importance to Zambia’s debt issue. We have played a constructive role in handling Zambia’s debt under the G20 Common Framework and facilitated the success of three meetings of the Creditor Committee for Zambia. As to the specific issues regarding debt treatment, the parties concerned are having friendly consultations in accordance with relevant principles.

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