|Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying's Regular Press Conference on February 23, 2016|
At the invitation of Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Singapore will pay an official visit to China from February 28 to March 2.
Q: According to US media reports on February 22, satellite images released by the US think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, show that China may be building an advanced radar system on Huayang Jiao of the Nansha Islands. Can you confirm that? Why is China doing so?
A: I am not aware of the situation you mentioned. I want to stress that the reef you mentioned is an indisputable part of China's territory. Construction by China on its own territory is totally within China's sovereignty. By deploying limited and necessary defense facilities on relevant stationed islands and reefs of the Nansha Islands, China is exercising the right of self-preservation granted by international law to sovereign states. It is beyond reproach.
I suggest that instead of focusing only on whether or not China has deployed military facilities on islands and reefs of the Nansha Islands, the media should broaden their horizon and pay more attention to the light houses built by China on its stationed islands and reefs, as well as the facilities for meteorological observation and forecast, emergency shelter and rescue being built by China. All these are public services and goods offered by China to the international community as the largest coastal state in the South China Sea. We hope that the international community would not doubt China's aspiration for and sincerity in peaceful development as well as peace and stability of the South China Sea. The Chinese side is ready to safeguard peace and stability of the South China Sea together with all parties.
Q: First, the US and Russia announced on February 22 that a cessation of hostilities in Syria will go into effect on February 27. What is China's comment on that? Second, how do you comment on the bombings in the Syrian cities of Damascus and Homs on February 21? What is your comment on the current situation in Syria?
A: On your first question, to realize a ceasefire as soon as possible in Syria is an important decision made by the 4th foreign ministers' meeting of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG). Russia and the US have recently reached an agreement on a cessation of hostilities in Syria, which means that relevant parties are taking further steps to translate consensus into actions. We welcome that. A ceasefire and a cessation of violence is an important link in Syria's political process. If well managed, it will help maintain the hard-earned momentum of political settlement and move forward peace talks among all Syrian parties. Going forward, the ISSG task force on the cessation of hostilities should play its due role in encouraging all parties to follow specific arrangements and create favorable external conditions for an early resumption of Geneva peace talks.
On your second question, the Chinese side opposes all forms of terrorism and strongly condemns the recent bombings in Syria which caused heavy casualties of innocent civilians. Political settlement is the only way out of the Syrian crisis. The Chinese side hopes that all parties concerned would act in strict accordance with Resolution 2254 of the UN Security Council, implement outcomes of the 4th ISSG foreign ministers' meeting, sustain the momentum of dialogues and negotiations and forge ahead with the ceasefire and cessation of violence, so that the Syrian people would embrace peace and stability at an early date.
Q: The IMF Executive Board announced in a statement on February 19 that Christine Lagarde was given a second five-year term as Managing Director. What is China's comment on that? How does China expect to enhance cooperation with the IMF led by Lagarde?
A: The Chinese side supports and welcomes Lagarde's serving of a second term as IMF Managing Director. In the past five years at the helm of the IMF, Lagarde has made positive contributions to global economic growth and financial stability with extraordinary leadership and strategic insight as well as outstanding professional and coordinating skills. In the future, China will maintain sound cooperation with the IMF led by Lagarde and further deepen cooperation in the G20 and other fields.
Q: The third senior officials' meeting on Lancang-Mekong River cooperation will soon be held in China. Do you have any details about the meeting?
A: The third senior officials' meeting on Lancang-Mekong River cooperation will be held in Sanya, Hainan on February 24. Vice Chinese Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin will co-host the meeting with the senior official from Thailand. Officials from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam will be present.
The meeting is to lay the groundwork for the first leaders' meeting on Lancang-Mekong River cooperation to be held in China in the latter half of March. It will mainly discuss relevant arrangements and outcome documents of the leaders' meeting. The Chinese side is ready to coordinate and cooperate with Mekong countries to prepare for the first leaders' meeting on Lancang-Mekong River cooperation.
Q: The commander of the US Navy's 7th Fleet Joseph Aucoin said the other day that Australia and other countries should follow the US lead and conduct "freedom-of-navigation" naval operations within 12 nautical miles of contested islands in the South China Sea. Besides, commentary by the US media said that the US should be wary of China's expansion of maritime claims by building the "Great Wall of sand" in the South China Sea. What is China's comment on that?
A: As the largest trading nation in the world and the biggest coastal state in the South China Sea, China cares more about navigation freedom than anyone else. A large amount of facts have proven that the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea has never been a problem. China is the last one to blame for impacting the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. Some people in the US keep making an issue of navigation freedom. They are either entertaining groundless fears or sowing discord with ulterior motives. It must be pointed out that the freedom of navigation under international law is by no means the freedom for US vessels and planes to make a show of force. Verbally, what the US talks about is navigation freedom. Virtually, what it thinks about is perhaps absolute hegemony on the sea. We hope that the US would stop driving wedges, stop creating tensions and stop making remarks unhelpful for peace and stability in the South China Sea.
As for the commentary by the US media about China's expansion of claims in the South China Sea with the "Great Wall of sand", I want to reiterate that China's sovereignty and relevant rights and interests over the South China Sea have been formed over the long course of history and upheld by successive Chinese governments. They are backed by sufficient historical and jurisprudential evidence. We will neither expand our claims nor see them shrink. If the media do want to draw an analogy between the "Great Wall" and something else, I suggest that it be the Chinese people's will to defend territorial sovereignty and legitimate rights and interests.
Q: Tropical cyclone Winston swept through Fiji on February 20 and 21. The strongest ever storm in the history of the country caused casualties and serious property losses. Has the Chinese side expressed sympathy with Fiji? Will China offer post-disaster assistance?
A: We deeply and sincerely sympathize with Fiji for the heavy property losses and casualties caused by the strong cyclone. Foreign Minister Wang Yi has expressed sympathy with Foreign Minister Inoke Kubuabola of Fiji. The Red Cross Society of China has provided US$ 100,000 to the Red Cross Society of Fiji as emergency humanitarian assistance. We will continue to follow the development of the disaster and support the government and people of Fiji in combating the disaster and rebuilding their homeland.