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FM: Yasukuni Shrine visits hurt feelings
Updated: 2004-03-06 16:41

Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said Saturday that Japanese leader's continuing visits to the notorious Yasukuni Shrine hurt the feelings of Chinese people, and stand in the way of normal Sino-Japanese relations. Li alaos reiterated Chinese government's opposition to any outside interference into Hong Kong and Taiwan affairs.

Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing answers questions at a press conference in Beijing, March 6, 2004. [Xinhua]

The foreign minister told a gathering of 500 journalists at the Great Hall of the People that only when the Japanese leaders take history as a mirror and look into the future, can the friendship between China and Japan develop in the future.

He said the mainstream of Sino-Japanese relationship is good and there has been good progress in the communication and cooperation in all fields between the two countries.

The China-Japan trade volume reached US$133.5 billion last year, he said. And the number of visitors exchanged reached 3 million. The two countries have also enhanced their coordination and cooperation in both regional and international affairs, the foreign minister noted, citing the most recent instance of the participation in the second round of six-party talks held in Beijing.

In the fight against SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) last year, China got the biggest material assistance from the Japanese government and people, Li added.

"But the most prominent issue in the bilateral relations, he said, is that the Japanese leaders insist on visiting the shrine that houses 14 Class-A World War II criminals and that has deeply hurt the feelings of the people of China and other Asian countries", Li pointed out.

He expressed the hope that Japanese leaders should show sincerity and do not be burdened down by historical issues. "The Japanese leaders should take history as a mirror and draw on lessons from history, and make up their minds to live in peace with other countries and treat each other as equals," he said.

He asked a Japanese correspondent to go back home and ask the Japanese leadership why it cannot do what some European countries can.

** "Hong Kong is China's Hong Kong"

Li also criticised some Hong Kong legislators' attempts to invite foreign interference into China's internal affairs regarding Hong Kong's political development.

"Hong Kong is China's Hong Kong and China has the resolve, capability and wisdom to maintain stability and prosperity in Hong Kong," Li said.

The minister added that China does not welcome or need any foreign interference in the issue, and it is useless for some specific persons to beg for foreign interference into the Hong Kong affairs.

It is reported that Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Legislative Council member Martin Lee and two others plan to give evidence to a US Senate hearing on the issue of democracy of Hong Kong.

** On illegal border crossers' and DPRK nuke issue

In response to a question raised by a correspondent from the Republic of Korea, Li refuted reports of the existence of refugees from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) in China, saying these people are "illegal border crossers."

Li said, "These people you refer to are not refugees, but illegal border crossers."

China and the DPRK share a common border of some 1,300 km, and it is nothing strange to see some illegal border crossing between the two countries, said the minister.

The Chinese government can handle the issue well in accordance with domestic laws, international laws and the humanitarian principles, he added.

The minister said that China's method for handling the DPRK illegal border crossers has been highly praised by the international community.

He went on to accuse some few people of attempting to "politicize the issue" by confusing the concepts of "refugees" and "illegal border crossers" and even inciting those people to create political incidents such as forcing their way into foreign diplomatic institutions.

Asked about the China-ROK relations, Li said that specific matters concerning a proposed visit to the ROK by Chinese President Hu Jintao were under discussion between the two sides through diplomatic channels.

However, he disclosed next week he will extend an invitation to his ROK counterpart Yoon Young-kwan to visit China.

He went on to say that economic, trade and cultural links between China and the ROK are developing rapidly these years, while the two countries are carrying out good cooperation.

Moreover, Li also said China has little information about the alleged uranium enrichment program of the DPRK.

"We don't have as much information as you do about the alleged DPRK uranium program," Li told a Reuters reporter while asked to confirm the allegations.

"(Even) if your information is supported by evidence, that will have nothing to do with China," the minister added.

China has always advocated a nuclear-weapon-free Korean Peninsula, Li said, "We don't wish to see a Korean Peninsula with nuclear weapons, we wish to see a Korean Peninsula that is peaceful, stable and prosperous."

The role China plays in helping resolve the nuclear issue of the Korean Peninsula is "to promote peace talks and to make peace", said the minister.

He also expressed the hopes that all sides concerned in the six-party talks on the Korean nuclear issue could play a constructive role in having a peaceful solution to the issue through dialogue.

** Sino-US common interests increasing

On Sino-US relations, Li said the common interests between the two countries - the biggest developing country and the biggest developed country - are on the increase rather than on the decrease.

He said China and the United States have expanded their cooperation in both width and depth.

After the September 11 incident in the United States, China and the United States have stepped up their cooperation against terrorism and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, Li said.

The economic and trade exchanges have also grown markedly, he noted. the United States is one of China's biggest trading partners and more than 40,000 US firms are operating in China.

The exchanges in the cultural sector are also increasing. There are 60,000 Chinese students studying in the United States and about 4,000 US students are studying in China, Li said, adding that the Chinese language has become the third largest language in the United States.

However, he admitted that there is differences between the two big countries. "It is unimaginable that there are no differences between the two big countries," Li said.

The biggest difference between China and the United States lies in the Taiwan issue, according to Li. "But there is an agreement between China and the United States, that is, the United States recognizes that there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is an inseparable part of China."

"As long as the two sides abide by the principles embodied in the three Sino-US Joint Communiques, the China-US relations would go forward healthily," he said.

Li said China attaches much importance and gives a high appraisal to the remarks made by US President Gorge W. Bush on Dec. 9 last year, which were also expressed clearly by President Bush during his two meetings with Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Li added that China will never allow anybody,in any way, to split Taiwan from the mainland.

The development of healthy, stable and cooperative relations between China and the United States conforms to the common interests of the two countries and benefits global peace and development, he added.

** Unilateralism denounced

During the press conference, Li also denounced unilateralism, saying multilateralism is an effective way to deal with common challenges for humanity, while unilateralism proves to be not popular.

"China supports multilateralism and is committed to multilateral cooperation," Li said.

Multilateralism is consistent with the spirit and purposes of the United Nations Charter.

"The reason the United Nations was founded and UN Charter was written is that the future matters in the world can not be dictated by one single country or a group of countries," he said.

The matters should be discussed by countries across the world, particularly by members of the United Nations, to find a solution, which is what the United Nations is all about, he added.

Li said multilateralism is an important means to resolve international disputes, and it is forceful promotion and guarantee for the benign development of globalization.

"It is also the best way to promote a democratic and law-based international relationship."

In the area of peace, China, India, Myanmar and other Asian countries put forward the Five-Principle of Peaceful Co-existence in their bids to promote peace in 1950s, which Li described as an outstanding contribution by Asian countries and Asian culture to the development of international relations in the right direction.

** Sino-Russia summit this year

Li announced Saturday that Chinese and Russian presidents will hold asummit in Beijing in the latter half of this year.

Wu Bangguo, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, and Premier Wen Jiabao will also pay official visits to Russia this year, Li added.

China's Premier Wen Jiabao has sent a message to congratulate Mikhail Fradkov on his nomination as Russia's new prime minister.

During a meeting of the two presidents, the year 2004 was made the Year of Friendship between Young Peoples of Two Countries, Li said, adding that it will breathe new vitality into Sino-Russian relations.

The foreign minister said it is a correct choice for the two nations todevelop good relations from generation to generation and never become enemies to each other. He spoke highly of China's strategicpartnership of cooperation with Russia.

China and Russia are the largest neighbors in the world and share a 4,300 kilometer-long border. Over the past few years, the two countries have signed a series of agreements to strengthen the friendly relations.

** Confidence expressed in diplomacy

On Premier Wen Jiabao's confidence expressed in his government work report in China's diplomacy, the foreign minister said Wen's confidence is well grounded.

"We have won more understanding, trust, respect and support from the international community, and we enjoy higher status and greater influence in the international arena than ever before," Li quoted Wen as reporting to the lawmakers Friday.

Li said the China's diplomatic work is for all Chinese people and wins the support of the whole people.

With China's peaceful development, the Chinese people have become increasingly rich, which represents the greatest contribution to human progress, Li said.

Being engaged in diplomatic work is to provide services, Li said, adding that the services are targeted first at the China's lofty goal of building a well-off society in an all-round way and striving to create a good international and regional environment for China's economic construction.

"Another purpose is to make friends. The more the better," Li said.

Last year, China received 18 heads of state, 22 heads of government and 31 foreign ministers, and top Chinese leaders including President Hu Jintao and Premiere Wen Jiabao visited 22 nations, covering with a total of distance of 166,000 kilometers, Li said.

China's friendship with neighboring countries was brought into a new height and China's relations with big countries and developing countries was further expanded in the past year.

He said China has joined 135 international inter-governmental agencies and Chinese diplomats have been active in the international affairs, including the Iraq issue and the Korean nuclear issue.

He also said China value continuity greatly in its diplomacy work. 

In response to a question on whether China will change its long-term diplomatic principle of keeping a low profile and awaiting for the opportune moment to accomplish something big by giving up the principle of keeping a low profile to stress, instead, accomplishing something big.

Li said he believed that one important thing in diplomacy is to seek truth from facts and keep up with the times. "Only by so doing, can we correctly size up the situation and take effective measures to secure what is good to our country and people," he said, adding that it is our consistent tradition to fix our stand based on what is right and what is wrong.

Peace and development remains the main theme of our era, the foreign minister said. But the world is not tranquil, often challenged by unexpected non-traditional threats. We have to learn to take up these challenges," he said.

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