|Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang's Regular Press Conference on October 27, 2015|
At the invitation of President Xi Jinping, President of the Republic of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will pay a state visit to China from November 1 to 5.
Q: It is reported that the USS Lassen sailed within 12 nautical miles off Zhubi Reef of the Nansha Islands on October 27. What is China's comment on that? What have the relevant Chinese authorities done in response?
A: The Chinese Foreign Ministry has released a statement on that at noon.
The USS Lassen illegally entered waters near relevant islands and reefs of China's Nansha Islands without the permission of the Chinese government on October 27. Relevant authorities of the Chinese side monitored, followed and warned the US vessel. Relevant actions by the US naval vessel threatened China's sovereignty and security interests, put the personnel and facilities on the islands and reefs at risk and endangered regional peace and stability. The Chinese side hereby expresses strong opposition.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi also issued a solemn warning to the American side this morning when answering a journalist's question, urging the US not to stir up troubles.
The Chinese side has stressed on many occasions that China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and their adjacent waters. China's sovereignty and relevant rights over the South China Sea have been formed over the long course of history and upheld by successive Chinese governments.
Construction by the Chinese side on its own territory is in the realm of China's sovereignty. It does not target nor affect any country, and has not and will not have any impact on the freedom of navigation and over-flight in the South China Sea to which all countries are entitled under international law.
The Chinese side respects and safeguards the freedom of navigation and over-flight in the South China Sea to which all countries are entitled under international law. In fact, the Chinese side cares more about navigation safety and freedom in the South China Sea than any other countries including some country outside the region. Commercial shipping is different from military actions. We stand firmly against the harm caused by any country to China's sovereignty and security interests under the cloak of navigation and over-flight freedom. The Chinese side is steadfast in safeguarding its territorial sovereignty and security as well as lawful and justified maritime rights and interests. The Chinese side will firmly respond to any deliberate provocation by any country. We will keep a close eye on what is happening in the relevant waters and airspace and take all necessary measures as needed.
The Chinese side strongly urges the American side to take China's solemn representations seriously, put right mistakes, refrain from any dangerous or provocative actions detrimental to China's sovereignty and security interests, and honor its commitment of not taking sides on disputes over territorial sovereignty so as to avoid any further damage to China-US relations and regional peace and stability.
Q: Can you tell us which islands or reefs the USS Lassen sailed near? I understand it could be both Meiji Reef and Zhubi Reef. Was there one Chinese ship or were there more than one following the USS Lassen? Was that the Kunming vessel?
A: On your first question, I would suggest that you ask the US side.
On your second question, the Chinese side has taken measures in accordance with the law. We firmly oppose such kind of actions by the US.
Q: Will there be any further reaction from the Chinese side?
A: China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and their adjacent waters. It is completely lawful for us to conduct normal construction on our own territory. It is justified for us to carry out relevant construction for the purpose of providing public goods and services and facilitating navigation in the region.
If any countries attempt to disrupt or impede the aforementioned lawful, justified and reasonable actions by the Chinese side by playing tricks, I advise those countries to cast aside the illusion the sooner the better.
If the relevant party keeps creating tension and stirring up troubles in the region, the Chinese side may have to reach the conclusion that we do need to step up and speed up relevant capacity building. We advise the US not to take self-defeating actions.
Q: You said that the Chinese side will firmly react to any country's provocation. What does that mean? How far is China willing to go to protect its territory?
A: China cares about peace, security and stability of the region, including that of the South China Sea. However, the Chinese side will not swallow silently any damage or threat to its sovereign rights and legitimate security interests. I would like to point out that the Chinese side is willing to remove differences through peaceful means, but when it has to react, it will decide when and how to react according to its will and need.
Q: Does that mean the Chinese side will take military actions?
A: I have no comment on a hypothetical question.
Q: First, the incident took place after President Xi Jinping's visit to the US. Does that imply that the disagreement between China and the US on this issue is getting bigger, and that there is only a slim chance for the two countries to see eye to eye? Second, last month, Chinese naval vessels sailed within 12 nautical miles off the coastline of Alaska. There was no strong reaction from the US military as they took it as innocent passage. Some people compared China's reaction with that of the US. Do you think they are comparable?
A: On your first question, President Xi Jinping's visit to the US is a full success. Leaders of the two countries reached important consensus on a lot of issues after in-depth communication. It is imperative for the two sides to implement the consensus, ensure the steady advancement of the new type of major-country relationship between China and the US and deliver tangible benefits to the two peoples. Leaders of the two countries had a candid exchange of views on the issue of the South China Sea during their talks. President Xi Jinping highlighted the importance of no confrontation and no friction. We hope that the American side would cherish peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific, value the bilateral relationship, prioritize people's interests and reflect upon its behavior on this issue.
On your second question, the Spokesperson of the Defense Ministry of China has already made a statement. The Strait of Tanaga is for international sailing. In accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and the geographic condition of the Strait, all ships passing the Strait have the right of transit passage. What Chinese naval vessels have done is in line with the international law and international practice.
The US naval vessel took the liberty to sail across waters off islands and reefs of China's Nansha Islands. It is completely different from transit passage and is nothing close to the so-called exercise of navigation freedom. Instead, it is a threat to China's sovereignty and security. The Chinese side is firmly opposed to that.
Q: Given that the US has sent ships to the area, will the Chinese side continue with its island construction?
A: As I just said, it is completely lawful, reasonable and justified for China to conduct construction activities on its own territory with the aim of producing public goods and services. If any countries attempt to disrupt or impede China's normal construction by playing tricks, I advise them to drop the illusion the sooner the better.
Q: A 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck northeastern Afghanistan's Hindu Kush region on the afternoon of October 26, causing grave damage to Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. At least 63 people were reported killed in Afghanistan. The death toll in Pakistan was over 228, and more than 1,200 people were injured. A large amount of houses in the disaster-hit area were shattered. What is China's response to that? Will China offer any assistance?
A: The Chinese side is following closely the damage caused by the earthquake in Afghanistan and has noted the heavy casualties and property losses sustained by Afghanistan and part of Pakistan in the earthquake. The Chinese side expresses deep condolences to the lost lives and sincere sympathy to the bereaved families and the injured. The Chinese government will assist Afghanistan and Pakistan with disaster relief at their request. To my knowledge, the Red Cross Society of China will provide the two countries with emergency assistance in cash.
Our hearts also go out to India and other countries affected by the earthquake.
Q: The 23rd APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting will be held in Manila, the Philippines in mid November. The date is approaching. Will President Xi Jinping attend the meeting?
A: The Chinese side has received the letter from President Benigno Aquino III inviting President Xi Jinping to attend the 23rd APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting. APEC is the most influential forum for economic cooperation and trade in the Asia-Pacific region at the highest level. China was the host of the 22nd APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting which was held successfully in Beijing and achieved a series of historic outcomes, making prominent contributions to APEC cooperation. China sets great store by and supports APEC cooperation, including the preparatory work of this year's APEC. It is hoped that this year's APEC would stick to the principle of focusing on economic cooperation and trade and make new contributions to regional economic cooperation. It is believed that President Xi Jinping will give positive thought to President Aquino's invitation.
Q: Fan Changlong, Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the CPC, said recently that China will not recklessly resort to force in dealing with the South China Sea sovereignty issue. Does this set the parameter for China's reaction to the recent action by the American side? Does this mean peaceful negotiations instead of military forces will be used by China and the US in dealing with this issue?
A: President Xi Jinping had a candid discussion with the US leader on this during his visit to the US. He has made it clear time and again that the Chinese side will properly deal with relevant disputes in the region with parties directly concerned through peaceful means with the maximum sincerity. Vice Chairman Fan Changlong also expressed such a will of the Chinese government when speaking at the Xiangshan Forum. The last thing we want to see is that in the end China has to realize that it cannot but speed and step up relevant capacity building.
Q: Iran's economic minister voiced Iran's willingness to join the new development bank of BRICS. What is China's comment on that? Has the Iranian side told the Chinese side about that?
A: The comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue has made it convenient for Iran to carry out normal activities back in the international community. I will try to get more information about the specific question you raised.