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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang's Regular Press Conference on July 14, 2016

2016-07-14

 

At the invitation of Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Minister of Foreign Affairs Manuel Gonzalez Sanz of the Republic of Costa Rica will pay an official visit to China from July 17 to 19.

Q: On July 13, the UK formed its new cabinet, with Theresa May as its Prime Minister, former London Mayor Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary. How will this affect China-UK relations? Is there any plan of mutual visits by leaders' of the two countries within this year?

A: China highly values its relationship with the UK. Premier Li Keqiang has sent a message of congratulations to Madame Theresa May on July 13 in which he talked about the sound momentum of development for bilateral relations, the frequent high-level exchanges of visits, the steady progress of practical cooperation, and increasingly closer people-to-people ties. China commends the British government for its pioneering spirit in promoting cooperation with China and stands ready to work with the British side to enhance bilateral relations and deliver greater benefits to the people of the two countries.

As for if there is any plan for leaders' mutual visits within the year, I can tell you that we welcome Prime Minister Theresa May's attendance at the G20 Hangzhou Summit in September and would like to arrange a new round of annual meeting between the Chinese Premier and the British Prime Minister when it is convenient for both sides. The two sides have been in close touch with each other on the relevant matter at the working level.

Q: The Chinese government was accused of carrying out a cyber attack on a US banking regulator, but the staff at the regulator tried to cover up the fact of being attacked by China. How do you respond?

A: We have noted the report which also admits that so far there has been no clear evidence to back the allegation.

This issue has been discussed time and again on this podium. We oppose cyber attacks and believe in an open, cooperative, secure and peaceful cyber space. The Chinese government firmly cracks down on illegal hacking activities in accordance with the law. But we must stress again that any accusation, whoever raised it, had better be backed up by solid evidence rather than speculative words such as "maybe" or "perhaps". It is highly irresponsible and does no good to international cooperation in the field of cyber security.

Q: When commenting on the South China Sea arbitration unilaterally launched by the Philippine side, the Australian leader said that the ruling is binding on relevant parties and shall be obeyed. Australia will continue to exercise its navigation and overflight freedom under international law. What is your comment?

A: We are firmly opposed to these remarks and have lodged solemn representations with the Australian side.

The arbitration unilaterally initiated by the Aquino III government violates international law and is a political farce under the cloak of law. The running and ruling of the Arbitral Tribunal is a far cry from the common practice of international arbitration. The ruling is invalid with no binding force, and will in no way affect China' territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests. We oppose and refuse to accept any proposal and action based on it. China will continue to safeguard its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests as well as peace and stability in the South China Sea. We remain committed to peacefully resolving the South China Sea dispute with countries directly concerned through negotiation and consultation on the basis of respecting historical facts and in accordance with international law.

As the largest littoral country in the South China Sea, China respects and upholds the freedom of navigation and overflight all countries enjoy under international law. Meanwhile, China will never accept any action targeting its sovereignty and security interests under the pretext of exercising navigation and overflight freedom.

Australia is not a party to the South China Sea dispute. It should base its position on the right and wrong of the matter, stick to its promise of not taking sides on disputes over territorial sovereignty, watch its words and actions, and avoid undermining regional peace and stability and bilateral relations.

Q: We saw the Weibo account of the UN issue a statement saying that the Permanent Court of Arbitration has no connection with the UN at all. The International Court of Justice also said that it is a totally different institution and has no involvement in the so-called South China Sea arbitration case. Previously the Spokesperson of the UN Secretary-General talked about not taking position on the legal and subject matters of the arbitration. Does China believe that all these statements from authoritative UN institutions will work to the benefit of China?

A: We have noted these statements from the UN institutions, which once again prove that the temporary Arbitral Tribunal in the South China Sea arbitration is anything but an international court. Its composition and operation is void of legality and representativeness, and the so-called ruling it produced has no authority and credibility to speak of and is invalid and not binding. No wonder only so few countries argue that the illegal decision is legally binding.

In some reports by the WSJ and the AFP, the Arbitral Tribunal set up at the unilateral request of the Philippine side was once called "UN court of arbitration" or "UN-backed arbitral tribunal". I hope that this is because of carelessness. Now that relevant UN institutions have publicly denied any connection with this arbitration, we hope that the media and some countries will avoid repeating such mistakes.

Q: Given the ruling that Meiji Jiao belongs to the Philippines, is China going to take intensified measures to assert its claim of sovereignty over this reef?

A: There is no need to go over China's principled position again as it has been repeated all these days. I once said on this podium that the decision by the unlawful Arbitral Tribunal established at the unilateral request of the Aquino III administration of the Philippines will not in the least affect China's established policy. I'd also like to stress that if anyone dares to challenge China's interests citing the award as an excuse, the Chinese side will definitely react.

Q: US White House senior director for Asian Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink said in a speech in Washington on July 13 that the US has "top national interests in the South China Sea" just as China and many other countries in the region do, and won't "turn a blind eye to this vital waterway in exchange for cooperation elsewhere". It is rare for the US official to talk about the South China Sea as top national interests. How do you comment? After the arbitration, will we see more competition or cooperation between China and the US in the South China Sea?

A: We never deny that the US has legitimate rights in the South China Sea and in this region. Meanwhile, we hope that the US can play a constructive role for regional peace, security and stability.

However, the US is not the only party that has interests in this region. China and other regional countries have more direct and more immediate interests. If non-regional countries want to play a part in the region, they must not sabotage our core interests, nor peace, stability and security of the region that we have been trying to maintain.

Since you asked, I can repeat that before the introduction of US "Rebalance to Asia" strategy, despite their differences and disputes, countries in the region managed to maintain peace, security and stability of the region and made this region an engine for stable economic growth through joint efforts. All countries have benefited from this.

Q: Now that the Philippines has won the arbitration case, there is speculation that perhaps some other countries, perhaps Vietnam could also launch arbitration. Does the Chinese side foresee that?

A: For rather a long time, countries in the region have been working side by side to properly manage differences and pursue common development, as was embodied by the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) signed by China and ten ASEAN countries in 2002.

In view of the current situation, ASEAN countries also came up with a dual-track approach, encouraging parties directly concerned to resolve relevant disputes in the South China Sea through direct dialogue and consultation, and China and all ASEAN states to safeguard peace and stability of the South China Sea. I believe that most countries in the region are willing to follow this approach like China is.

Q: Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said yesterday that China is willing to resume negotiation with the new Philippine government and welcomes its positive stance on the arbitration case. Has China come into contact with the Philippine side through either the embassies or other diplomatic channels for the restart of negotiation? If not, is China waiting for the Philippine side to take the first step?

A: You are right. Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said at yesterday's press conference that China had noted that the new Philippine government led by President Duterte was positive about resuming dialogue with China and moving forward the bilateral relationship from different aspects. We welcome that with our door widely open.

As for whether the two sides have contact, there were public reports about contact between the two sides through the diplomatic channel after the inauguration of the new government.

Q: Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said that China's reputation would suffer if it ignored the ruling of the arbitration. How does China comment on that?

A: I just made clear China's solemn position. To be frank, the statement by Foreign Minister Bishop took me by surprise. We have been expressing our hope that a handful of countries including Australia will respect the just position held by the majority of the international community and stop wishfully equating an illegal award of an unlawful arbitral tribunal with international law.

It seems to me that the Australian side is belittling international law, because it is not just reputation that will suffer if a country gravely violates international law. The Chinese side upholds the solemnity of international law and resists anything that contravenes it. We hope that the Australian side will also take international law seriously. On top of that, if something that violates international law is treated as international law, the more support it gets, the greater damage it will do to international judicature and international relations. And it is not that difficult in finding an example of this.

Q: It is reported that the Japanese Emperor has passed the throne to the Crown Prince. What is your comment?

A: It is Japan's domestic affair.

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