At the invitation of the government of the Republic of the Philippines, Vice Premier Wang Yang of the State Council will pay an official visit to the Philippines from March 16 to 19.
Q: Could you talk about the specific arrangement for Vice Premier Wang Yang's visit? Will he meet with President Rodrigo Duterte? What will be the main agenda items?
A: Vice Premier Wang Yang will pay an official visit to the Philippines from March 16 to 19. During the visit, he will meet with President Duterte, hold talks with the economic management team of the cabinet of the Philippines, address the opening ceremony of the China-ASEAN Year of Tourism and deliver a keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the China-Philippines Economic and Trade Forum.
President Duterte paid a successful visit to China last October and China-Philippines relations have been turned around. We have seen an upward momentum in the development of China-Philippines relations, as the two countries deepen their political mutual trust, conduct practical cooperation across the board and resume dialogue and cooperation on maritime issues, delivering tangible benefits to the people of both countries and facilitating regional peace and stability. Last week, Chinese Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan visited the Philippines, where he chaired the 28th Conference of China-Philippines Joint Committee of Trade and Economy and met with six Philippine cabinet ministers, including the Finance Minister, reaching extensive consensus on practical cooperation between the two countries in various fields. We believe Vice Premier Wang Yang's visit will further enhance mutual trust between China and the Philippines, deepen China-Philippines good neighborliness and friendship, advance practical cooperation between the two countries in various fields and take China-Philippines relations to a new level.
Q: The Japanese helicopter carrier Izumo will go to the South China Sea for drills. Is China concerned about that?
A: You asked whether China is concerned about this. What I can tell you is: not at all. According to media reports, the Izumo warship is going to the South China Sea in May. But whether it is going there to visit some Southeast Asian countries or for other purposes, we have yet to hear the official statement from the Japanese side. If this is only about normal visits and normal transit through the South China Sea, we hold no objection and hope that such normal exchanges between relevant countries can help promote peace and stability in the region. But if it is going to the South China Sea for other motives, it would be a different story. As we have indeed seen the Japanese side stirring up troubles on the South China Sea issue, we hope the Japanese side can truly play a responsible role for peace and stability in this region.
Q: First, it is reported that US President Donald Trump is going to meet with President Xi Jinping. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's visit to China at the weekend is to prepare for that. Can you confirm that? Second, the US announced yesterday its permanent deployment of Gray Eagle unmanned drones in the ROK as a measure against the DPRK. How do you respond to that?
A: On your first question, both China and the US attach great significance to strengthening exchanges between the two countries at the top and other levels. The two sides are now staying in close touch on exchanges between the two Presidents and at other levels. We will release further information in due course.
On your second question regarding the US plan to deploy unmanned drones in the ROK, we have seen the relevant report. The current situation on the Korean Peninsula is highly sensitive and complex. If relevant sides truly hope to see peace and stability in this region, they should apply the brake and put out the fire, instead of adding fuel to the flame. We believe peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula serves the common interests and remains the shared responsibility of all parties. We hope all relevant sides will exercise calm and restraint and do more to ease the tensions, instead of the opposite.
Q: I just wonder if you can confirm US media reports that President Trump and President Xi Jinping will meet soon. Secondly, who will US Secretary of State Tillerson meet during his visit to Beijing and what are China's priorities for the talks?
A: As I said, both China and the US attach great significance to strengthening exchanges between the two countries at the top and other levels. The two sides are now in close communication on exchanges between the two Presidents and at other levels. We will release further information in due course. As for Secretary of State Tillerson's visit to China, we will also release the information very promptly.
Q: Regarding media reports about Chinese survey ships cruising waters near the "Benham Rise", Philippine President Duterte said yesterday that those were just research vessels and have not intruded waters of the Philippines. The Philippines and China had reached common understanding on this and the Philippine side had been notified by the Chinese side. As things are going great, the Philippines and China should not fight about ownership and sovereignty. How does the Chinese side comment?
A: China welcomes and commends relevant remarks by President Duterte. As he said, China and the Philippines have already communicated and had a friendly exchange of views on the relevant issue, clarified the facts and appropriately handled the issue.
I wish to reiterate that China fully respects the Philippines' rights over the continental shelf in the "Benham Rise" and there is no such thing of China challenging those rights. But the basic principle of international law says that the EEZ and the continental shelf do not equate with territories, and a littoral state's exercise of rights over the continental shelf should not hamper such rights as freedom of navigation enjoyed by other countries under international law.
Currently, under the concerted efforts of China and the Philippines, the bilateral relationship is developing with a sound momentum and practical cooperation in various areas is picking up speed. This is in line with the common interests and aspiration of the two peoples. From China's point of view, we attach great importance to the good neighborly and friendly partnership with the Philippines, and stand ready to work with the Philippines to implement the two Presidents' consensus of " upholding good neighborly and friendly cooperation, appropriately handling differences, and pursuing common development", bear in mind the larger picture of bilateral relations, continue to enhance mutual understanding and mutual trust, deepen friendly cooperation, and strive for the continued, sound and steady development of bilateral relations.
Q: The USS Carl Vinson will be participating in military exercises between the US and the ROK. Does China think that the arrival of the aircraft carrier off the coast of the ROK will do nothing to help resolve tensions on the Korean Peninsula?
A: I believe you already have the answer. Whether the participation of USS Carl Vinson in joint military exercises between the US and the ROK will help ease the tensions on the Korean Peninsula or not, the answer is self-evident. The situation on the Korean Peninsula is highly complex and sensitive. We hope relevant sides will respect the security concerns of regional countries and do more to ease the tension with a responsible attitude, instead of making provocative and escalatory moves. As Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at his press conference during the two sessions, if no side is ready for a head-on collision, then brakes should be applied. That is why China put forward the suspension-for-suspension proposal. We hope relevant sides can consider this seriously and make constructive response.
Q: The Japanese Navy will join the US-ROK joint military exercises today and tomorrow. How do you comment on that?
A: We have said repeatedly that the current situation on the Korean Peninsula is highly complex and tense. We hope relevant sides can do more to ease the tension, instead of making provocative and escalatory moves. I also wish to call upon relevant sides to have serious considerations on China's suspension-for-suspension proposal. The current situation is: on the one hand, the DPRK insists on advancing its nuclear and missile programs in violation of UN Security Council resolutions; on the other hand, the US, the ROK and Japan are conducting large-scale military exercises. This is a vicious circle and an upward spiral of tensions. It will do no good to any country. We hope relevant sides will take a responsible attitude, truly play a constructive role in promoting regional peace and stability, and, as I said, apply the brake and put out the fire, instead of adding fuel to the flame, because that does not facilitate regional peace and stability.
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The regular press conference of the Foreign Ministry will adjourn on Wednesday, March 15, as Premier Li Keqiang will meet with Chinese and foreign journalists at the Great Hall of the People, and will resume on Thursday, March 16.