China defends food safety at Asian security summit

Updated: 2007-08-01 20:01

MANILA - China's foreign minister will defend the "made-in-China" label on Wednesday, as the safety of Chinese food was in focus on the eve of Asia's largest security summit.

In other meetings, India and the United States discussed their landmark nuclear pact announced last week, Japan and China reviewed bilateral relations and countries involved in the six-party talks on North Korea conferred on the way forward.

The U.N. resolution to send peacekeepers to Darfur, which was signed on Tuesday, was welcomed by several of the participants.

Foreign ministers and senior officials from 27 nations are in Manila for the annual Association of South East Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum, which will formally start on Thursday.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte that Beijing did not want a string of recent health scares connected with its exports blown out of proportion.

"We also oppose politicising the issue of Chinese products, and oppose trade protectionism and trade discrimination," Yang was quoted as saying by a foreign ministry spokeswoman.

The United States stepped up inspections of imports from China after a chemical additive in pet food caused the death of pets there this spring.

Since then, poisonous ingredients have been found in Chinese exports of toys, toothpaste and fish, while the deaths of patients in Panama were blamed on improperly labelled Chinese chemicals that were mixed into cough syrup.

"China is willing to strengthen cooperation with the United States in quality testing, quarantine and inspection, and is also willing to promote with the United States the normal and smooth development of China-US trade," Yang said.

Yang also defended Chinese goods in a meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso, a Japanese official said, and the issue came up in discussions with European Union foreign affairs chief Javier Solana.

"Over 99 percent of Chinese exports to Japan have cleared inspections since 2004," Yang was quoted by the official as telling Aso. "He repeatedly stressed that China attaches importance to food safety."

The official quoted Aso as telling Yang: "In the past there was an image of Japanese exports being cheap and shoddy. It took a long time to secure an image that their prices are high but their qualities are also high. China needs to make serious efforts."

No Rice

China has gained greater prominence at the meetings due to the absence of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Climate change, counterterrorism and North Korea's nuclear programme are also high on the agenda at the gathering, which brings together the 10-nation ASEAN with ministers from elsewhere in Asia, the United States, Russia, Canada and the EU.

But hopes of revving up progress on North Korea were muted in the absence of Rice, who is in the Middle East for talks on Iraq, and little beyond positive platitudes about recent progress has so far emerged from talks in the Philippines, which holds the rotating chairmanship of ASEAN.

Despite expectations of a bilateral meeting between the US and North Korean delegations, Negroponte, Rice's deputy, said nothing was planned.

Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee told Reuters he held substantive talks with Negroponte on the way forward after the two countries signed a civilian nuclear pact last week.

Countries discussed terror threats as well as responses to disasters and the outbreak of diseases in the region.

"The conclusion we came to is this -- no country, no matter how powerful, can do it by itself. We can only do it collectively," said New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters.

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