China Calls for Ending ‘Historic Injustice against Palestinians

Wang

Beijing, Ramallah – China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi voiced on Thursday Beijing’s support for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

He added after meeting Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki that failure to build this state “is a historic injustice that can no longer continue.”

Chinese envoys occasionally visit Israel and the Palestinian Territories, though China has traditionally played little role in Middle East conflicts or diplomacy, despite its reliance on the region for oil.

Wang told a joint press briefing with Maliki that 70 years after a UN resolution was passed on a plan for a Jewish state, Palestinians are still being prevented from having their own independent country.

“This is unfair. This kind of historical injustice must be corrected. It cannot continue,” Wang said.

It was time to overcome inertia and restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, he said.

Maliki said Palestinians appreciated and welcomed China’s efforts to facilitate peace.

“And we do encourage China to do more of this kind of approach, in order to see peace ultimately achieved in our region,” he added.

Beijing has traditionally had a good relationship with the Palestinians.

The Middle East, however, is fraught with risk for China, a country that has little experience navigating the religious and political tensions that frequently rack the region.

China’s President Xi Jinping told visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in March that peaceful coexistence between Israel and Palestine would be good for both parties and the region, and that it was favored by the international community.

US, China to Increase Cooperation on North Korea

Korea

Beijing – The United States and China vowed to work together against threats of the North Korea’s nuclear program, while US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned that the situation has reached a “dangerous” level.

Tillerson and his Chinese counterpart’s language seemed more reconciliatory in light US President Donald Trump’s accusations that China was not exerting enough efforts to control its troublesome neighbor. Beijing had meanwhile accused the White House of causing tensions.

“I think we share a common view and a sense that tensions on the peninsula are quite high right now and things have reached a rather dangerous level. And we have committed ourselves to doing everything we can to prevent any kind of conflict from breaking out,” Tillerson added during a press conference in Beijing with Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

Tillerson’s visit to China is the last leg of his Asian trip, where he made stops in Japan and South Korea.

He avoided using strong language during the joint press conference with Wang, who seemed to have reproached his counterpart for statements he had made earlier this week.

Wang urged the US to remain “cool-headed” and defended his government’s position, saying all international parties should seek diplomatic solutions while implementing UN sanctions against the regime in North Korea.

“We hope that all parties, including our friends from the United States, could size up the situation in a cool-headed and comprehensive fashion and arrive at a wise decision,” he added.

Neither parties announced any tangible future steps to solve the issue and Tillerson did not publically respond to Beijing’s calls for negotiations with North Korea.

Trump had increased the pressure on China, accusing it of not exploiting all means possible to control North Korea, whom he said considered Beijing to be its closest ally and economic benefactor.

“North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been ‘playing’ the United States for years. China has done little to help!” he tweeted.

The developments come after North Korea conducted two nuclear tests last year and launched missiles last month. The US considered the test-launch an attack on its bases in Japan.

The developments alarmed South Korea, spurring it to deploy the US’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System (THAAD). The Chinese leadership had accused the US of aggravating the situation through military trainings with its ally Seoul and the deployment of THAAD.

China is hesitant to increase its pressure on North Korea, whose reactions can be unpredictable.

Washington and Seoul insist that the THAAD system is for defense purposes only, but Beijing fears it could undermine its capabilities to denuclearize North Korea.

Beijing had always called for diplomatic talks to denuclearize North Korea, which is barred by the UN from proceeding with its program.

Wang also said that the Korean peninsula nuclear issue is of interest to everyone, reiterating his country’s commitment to the goal of denuclearization

“We are for the settlement of this issue through dialogue and negotiations and the maintenance of peace and stability on the peninsula and the overall region,” he added on Saturday.

Wang reiterated that China, as a close neighbor of the peninsula and a major power, has devoted a lot of energy and efforts to seek a settlement to the issue. The tremendous important efforts China has made are visible to all, he said.

Tillerson, who was CEO of ExxonMobil before being appointed secretary of state, said that a military option is possible if Pyongyang intensified its work.

“We do believe that if North Korea stands down on this nuclear program, that is their quickest means to begin to develop their economy and to become a vibrant economy for the North Korean people,” the US officials said.

He added: “All options are on the table, but we cannot predict the future.”

Maybe one of the reasons for the calm American-Chinese rhetoric is the expected talks between US President Trump and Chinese President Xi during the latter’s upcoming visit to US next month, the first such summit between the two leaders.

Trump is expected to host Xi at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach on April 6 and 7 for an informal “no necktie” encounter. Experts hope this meeting will reduce tensions between the two officials.

China shares US fears of Pyongyang’s nuclear ambition, but it makes sure not to provoke its neighbor.

In February, Beijing issued a strong position when it announced it will stop coal imports from North Korea until the end of this year.

North Korea expert at Beijing University Wong Dong said: “It is a mistake to think that China can control Pyongyang and it is not reasonable for Washington to accuse Beijing of doing nothing. The situation is complicated and sensitive and there is no magical solution.”

The Obama administration ruled out any diplomatic involvement with Pyongyang until the latter shows commitment to denuclearization.

The communist state insists on owning nuclear weapons to defend itself and executed its first test in 2006 despite international objection. It had done four other tests, two last year.

Chinese FM: China is Biggest Partner to 10 Middle Eastern Countries

Riyadh – Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi said that the visit of Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz to China was a positive message to the countries of the Middle East and the international community.

He added that such state visit would reflect Beijing and Riyadh’s keenness on promoting strategic cooperation and preserving regional peace.

In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, the Chinese minister said: “The visit of King Salman bin Abdulaziz to China will boost cooperation on development strategies and will deepen joint collaboration within the framework of the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative.”

The Belt and Road Initiative is a development strategy and framework, proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping that focuses on connectivity and cooperation among countries, primarily between the People’s Republic of China and the rest of Eurasia.

Wang Yi hailed Saudi Arabia’s pivotal role in preserving peace and stability in the region, noting that the Middle East occupied an important position on the Chinese diplomatic map, as China represents the biggest commercial partner for ten Middle Eastern countries.

He disclosed that Xi Jinping would hold official talks with King Salman to “exchange viewpoints on bilateral relations and other issues of common interest.”

He also added that several cooperation agreements in the field of production capacity, commerce, space, renewable energy and education, would be signed on the sidelines of the King’s visit.

Asked to evaluate relations between Beijing and Riyadh, the foreign minister said: “Since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1990, Chinese-Saudi relations witnessed a continuous and healthy evolution, and the two countries became strategic partners.”

He added that trade exchange between the Kingdom and China amounted to $42.36 billion in 2016, which led Saudi Arabia to become China’s biggest commercial partner among countries of Africa and Western Asia. The minister also highlighted the importance of cultural and humanitarian relations between the two countries.

Wang Yi said King Salman is the first Saudi King to visit China in 11 years.

He added that his visit comes in response to the state visit conducted by Xi Jinping to the Kingdom in January 2016.

Asked about Saudi-Chinese cooperation in the Belt and Road Initiative, the foreign minister said that the Saudi leadership warmly welcomed the Chinese president’s initiative. He stated that a joint cooperation agreement was signed between the two countries to boost cooperation in this regard.

The minister added that the Chinese initiative was aimed at building a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient Silk Road trade routes.

Both Saudi Arabia and China have great potential, whether in infrastructure construction or in financial innovation, he noted.

On whether the two countries share a common vision of the situation in the region, Wang Yi said that Saudi Arabia was assuming a vital role in the Arab and Islamic region, and was an important source of energy to the world.

The Kingdom also “positively contributes to maintaining and consolidating peace, stability and development in the region,” according to the minister.

He added that both countries were calling on the international community to unify efforts to fight terrorism and reject the double standard in world politics.

“China is not seeking to impose its influence in the Middle East and is not lined with any party,” the foreign minister said.

“On the contrary, our country calls for achieving equal development on the basis of mutual interests,” he continued.

Asked about the situation in Syria, Wang Yi stressed the need to implement UN Security Council Resolution 2254 and to establish a comprehensive solution that would include a permanent ceasefire, access to humanitarian aid, fighting terrorism and reconstruction.

On a different note, the foreign minister said that since the election of US President Donald Trump in November, relations between the US and China have witnessed some improvement.

He added that both countries’ leaders have agreed on the need to develop bilateral relations.

China Seeks Solution to Syrian Crisis…Invites Khoja in Support for Settlement

Khoja
Khoja

China is joining global efforts to end the Syrian crisis and mediate between the conflicting parties. After two weeks of the Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid al-Moallem’s visit to Beijing, the President of the Syrian Coalition Khaled Khoja is expected to arrive to China’s capital today following a governmental invitation in a visit that will last until Friday, January 8.

Sources from the Coalition told Asharq Al-Awsat that Khoja’s visit is within the framework of ongoing efforts to reach a political solution, to elucidate the magnitude of the Syrian case and to listen to the Chinese point of view regarding the developments occurring in this case. The sources stressed on the disparities between the Chinese and the Russian stances, which are counted on.

The spokeswoman of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Hua Chunying, said that the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will meet Khoja during his stay in Beijing to promote a political settlement in Syria. She urged all parties to work together to fight terrorism and reach a settlement to ceasefire in Syria.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Supreme Commission for Negotiations, which emerged from the meeting of the Syrian Opposition forces in Riyadh, will meet the UN peace envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura in the Saudi capital before he heads to Damascus to prepare for the negotiations that are scheduled by the end of January in Geneva.

Sources from the Commission revealed for Asharq Al-Awsat the preparations made for a working paper containing the opposition forces’ vision regarding the upcoming negotiations with the regime. The paper, which will be submitted to the UN envoy, was agreed on during the open and ongoing meetings that have started on Sunday in Riyadh.

Chinese Foreign Minister: Our position on Syria is objective and fair

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (right) speaks to Asharq Al-Awsat Editor Adel Al Toraifi in Beijing in March 2014 (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (right) speaks to Asharq Al-Awsat Editor Adel Al Toraifi in Beijing in March 2014 (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Beijing, Asharq Al-Awsat—During Saudi Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz’s official trip to China, Asharq Al-Awsat met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi for an in-depth interview. Mr. Wang spoke in detail about Prince Salman’s visit and touched on a range of regional and international topics.

The interview was conducted in the Great Hall of the People, an enormous building in which high-level official meetings are held and the National People’s Congress meets. The Hall, as it is officially called, is a standout architectural landmark in Beijing, the Chinese capital, and is one of the most recognizable features in all of China. This striking edifice overlooking Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing was built in 1959 on the tenth anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. It is one of the Ten Great Buildings which were built during that historic year. Construction took ten months, and was completed at the hands of volunteers.

While Asharq Al-Awsat waited to interview the minister, the Saudi Crown Prince met with the Chinese head of state in one of the Hall’s adjoining rooms adorned with images of Mao Zedong and the Red Star.

The interview with Foreign Minister Wang Yi was conducted immediately after the meeting between the Chinese President and Crown Prince Salman, which exceeded its scheduled time. When we asked the minister why the meeting had run for so long, he replied that the satisfactory nature of the meeting had kept the two parties talking for longer than expected.

Mr. Wang also informed us that the visit had achieved two goals: first, to raise the level of coordination; and second, to expand the areas of strategic cooperation at all levels. During the meeting, Crown Prince Salman emphasized his support for the One-China policy, and condemned the recent terrorist attack that took place on Chinese soil. The talks between the Saudi and Chinese sides touched on regional issues, foremost of which was the Syrian conflict, the Palestinian issue, and the Iranian nuclear project; both sides were able to come to an agreement on most of them. The Chinese president praised the visit, and stressed the need for a free trade zone within the Gulf. Both sides also somewhat surprisingly came to a consensus regarding Egypt. As for Syria, the two sides agreed on an overarching vision, with Beijing proposing its own in this regard.

Sixty-year-old Wang is a veteran diplomat who speaks Japanese fluently, having previously served in Tokyo as the ambassador to Japan. He graduated from Beijing University and majored in International Studies, where he also studied Japanese. After joining the diplomatic corps, he attended Georgetown University in Washington DC where he earned a Master’s degree in International Relations, then completing a second Master’s degree, also in International Relations, from the China Foreign Affairs University. In February 2001, he was promoted to the position of Deputy Foreign Minister for Asian Affairs. After becoming ambassador to Japan and Manager of Taiwanese relations, he was appointed foreign minister in March 2013.

Asharq Al-Awsat: How do you view the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz to your country?

Wang Yi: This visit came at the invitation of Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao. The visit is one of the highest-level of its kind, behind the visit of King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz to our country in January 2006, and the visit by Crown Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz 15 years ago. This is an historic visit of great importance. Prince Salman was received with the utmost respect, met by President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang, and State Councilor and Minister of Defense Chang Wanquan. Vice President Li Yuanchao held talks with the Saudi Crown Prince, during which the two sides reached a broad consensus on bilateral relations and regional and international issues of common concern. They also signed a series of bilateral cooperation documents and issued a joint statement.

Leaders on both sides joined together around the need to fortify the strategic friendship between the two countries in light of current circumstances and as a means to open up new horizons for continuous bilateral relations. What is required from both sides is continuous understanding and exchanges of support on issues related to the core interests and major concerns of the other party. This also includes working to expand cooperation in the fields of science and advanced technology, such as high-speed trains, the peaceful use of nuclear energy, aviation, and space, in addition to expanding cooperation in traditional areas such as energy, economy and trade. Other concerns consist in increasing cultural and humanitarian exchanges, accelerating the establishment of a free trade zone between China and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), working to push the establishment of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, which will invigorate the friendship between the two countries. Accordingly, it can be said that the visit of Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz to China was a complete success.

Q: How do you view relations between China and Saudi Arabia in light of current circumstances?

In recent years Chinese–Saudi relations have witnessed comprehensive and rapid development thanks to the personal concern of leaders of both countries and their shared efforts to establish a strong friendship and sense of brotherhood, making the countries close partners. They interact with each other on an equal footing, exchange support, and cooperate in order to achieve common gains. According to China’s understanding, the development of relations between the two countries is fundamentally related to three reasons:

First, mutual respect and trust, which form an important basis for developing bilateral relations. Despite the fact that the history, culture, social system, and development patterns of China and Saudi Arabia differ, the two countries have always communicated with each other on an equal basis and in the framework of mutual trust and respect. This ensured a steady development of bilateral relations in the right direction.

Second, cooperation is mutually beneficial. It is a driving force behind the continuous development of bilateral relations, which are characterized by strong economic integration. This creates a consensus on the foundational interests of the two people, and promising prospects.

Third, the two peoples’ friendship is an important link that brings relations between the countries closer. The traditional friendship that links the Chinese and Saudi peoples forms a solid social and popular foundation for the development of bilateral relations.

The strengthening of a strategic friendship between China and Saudi Arabia, in the current state of affairs, is not consistent with the realistic and long-term interests of the two peoples and nations, but it does contribute to strengthening the foundations of peace, stability and prosperity in the region and in the wider world.

Q: For over a thousand years, the people of the Gulf and the Chinese people maintained friendly relations through the Silk Road, which allowed for commercial exchange and cultural contact between the two parties. What are the programs that will be implemented to incentivize academic and cultural contact between the two countries?

The friendship between China and the Arab countries has its roots deep in history. The Silk Road linked Arab countries with China over 2,000 years ago. China is now working to push for the construction of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road which meet in the West Asian and North African regions where Saudi Arabia is located. This will create many opportunities and establish a promising future for China and the countries of the region in achieving shared development and prosperity for all. We are ready to work with Saudi Arabia to build a Belt along with the Road and expand cooperation in a number of areas, deepening the integration of shared interests, boosting mutually beneficial cooperation, and reviving the Silk Road.

Q: The volume of trade exchange between China and Saudi Arabia amounts to 73 billion US dollars. Do you think that the oil trade is the basis of relations between the two countries? What is your opinion on the future of Chinese–Saudi energy cooperation?

We always strive to strengthen comprehensive cooperation with Saudi Arabia, which is mutually beneficial and translates into shared gains for both sides. Energy is actually one of the most important areas of cooperation between our country and Saudi Arabia. The initiative came in line with development requirements in our countries and permitted us to achieve a common interest for our people.

Saudi Arabia is the largest producer of energy and China’s needs have increased due to economic growth. There is huge potential for mutually beneficial cooperation between the two sides. However, our country’s cooperation with Saudi Arabia is not unique, and is not limited to energy, but instead includes the political, economic, cultural, and educational fields. We will continue to strengthen this mutually beneficial cooperation across various fields in the future.

Q: What is your opinion of Saudi–Chinese cooperation in the fight against terrorism?

International counterterrorism cooperation has steadily deepened in recent years and many positive developments have occurred. However, the world is still in the midst of a complicated and dangerous situation. For our part, we categorically reject terrorism in all its forms. We call on the international community to cooperate in the fight in accordance with the UN charter, international law, and the recognized norms that govern international relations. This also calls for taking political, economic and diplomatic measures to address terrorism comprehensively, leading to its being uprooted. As such we refuse to subscribe to double standards in the fight against terrorism, or to link terrorism to a specific country, ethnicity, or religion.

In this regard, we appreciate Saudi Arabia’s condemnation of dangerous terrorist violence, which struck on March 1 in the city of Kunming in the Yunnan Province of China. We are all harmed by terrorism, and we face a dangerous, complicated situation in combating the trend. We are prepared to strengthen communication and cooperation with Saudi Arabia in this area according to the principle of mutual respect and equality in order to safeguard peace and stability in the region and the world as a whole.

Q: China has always expressed an interest in the Middle East. What are the geopolitical considerations, other than energy resources, that drive your interest in the region?

The Middle East is an important and unique region from all geopolitical, economic, cultural and energy-related standpoints. We care about protecting peace and stability in this region as well as fortifying shared development among its nations. Some argue that our country’s involvement in Middle Eastern affairs occurs as our eyes are locked on energy. The truth is, however, that our country began its strong support for the just cause of the Palestinian people before oil was imported from the region.

What interests us about the Middle East is contained in the following points:

First, justice: protecting the fundamental rules of international relations and respecting choices made by the people through independent will. Second, peace: safeguarding regional stability and pushing for political solutions to thorny issues. Third, development: sound development among the countries of the Middle East is in the interest of China and the greater world. Fourth, communication: achieving mutual benefit through dialogue between different civilizations and shared learning.

We are keen to offer more goods to the Middle East in the future and to make greater contributions to promoting peace and development in the region, which is in line with our own capacity to grow.

Q: What is China’s position on the Iranian nuclear program?

Our position on the Iranian nuclear issue has been clear and consistent. We reject Iran developing and possessing nuclear weapons and support a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. The first agreement between the P5+1 [the permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany] countries and Iran was reached in Geneva at the end of last year after ten years of negotiations. This represents very important progress achieved by diplomatic efforts since the worsening of the Iranian nuclear issue. Recently, the P5+1 countries and Iran launched negotiations surrounding a comprehensive agreement, and all countries must take into account each other’s concerns, settle disputes property, and strive to achieve mutual gains and benefits. This will lead to a comprehensive agreement that resolves the Iranian nuclear issue permanently and quickly and addresses the root of the problem, serving the interests of Iran and the wider region.

We recommend reconciliation and negotiation. We are working to find a peaceful solution that takes into account the concerns of all parties. We hope that Iran and the Gulf Arab states settle disputes through consultation, negotiation and proper problem-solving, leading to more harmonious relations.

Q: Regarding the conflict in Syria, China’s position was very clear in opposing foreign military intervention. What is your opinion on the Geneva talks and efforts to negotiate a political settlement?

After more than three years since the start of the war in Syria, all international parties came together, agreeing that war will not solve the problem and achieving a political solution through negotiations will be the only way to end the crisis. The Syrian government and the opposition have held two rounds of negotiations in the framework of the Geneva Conference so far. Both expressed a desire to continue negotiations, although there are many disputes and obstacles that are difficult to overcome. As I said at Geneva II, dialogue and negotiations are continuous processes that require constant, uninterrupted effort. It is impossible to count on one or two conferences to dismantle the hatred that has accumulated as a result of the bloody clashes that have persisted for three years. The international community must encourage both Syrian parties to undergo the third round of negotiations as soon as possible in accordance with the spirit of the Geneva statement. Negotiations must continue until results are produced and a middle road that addresses the concerns of both parties and benefits from all parties’ acceptance is located, in order to achieve peace for the country and ensure a future for its people.

As a permanent member of the UN Security Council we are fully aware of our responsibilities and obligations to maintain international peace and stability. Our position on the Syrian issue is objective, fair, serious and thoughtful, and it is comprised of, in essence:

Firstly, the need to maintain the objectives and principles of the UN charter and the basic norms of international relations. This includes, in particular, the principle of non-interference into internal affairs, which is considered a “red line” in international relations. Secondly, the need to preserve the independence, sovereignty and integrity of countries’ territories, something which forms the foundation of the international system. Thirdly, the need to preserve peace and stability in the region, and protect the basic and long-term interests of the Syrian people. This is one of the foundations of our policy towards the Middle East.

Over the past three years, we have launched unremitting efforts to advance a political solution, to destroy chemical weapons in Syria, and to provide humanitarian assistance. We actively participated in the Geneva I and Geneva II Conferences, playing a constructive role in both. We maintained contact with all Syrian parties through various means and pushed for reconciliation and the encouragement of negotiations. We participated in destroying chemical weapons in Syria, and at this very moment, Chinese military ships are guarding ships carrying chemical weapons from Syria in the Mediterranean Sea. We follow the humanitarian situation in Syria with great interest and share in the suffering of the Syrian people. We have made great efforts to adopt a resolution on the humanitarian situation in Syria unanimously. At the same time, we send several shipments of humanitarian aid to the Syrian people and refugees abroad through various channels. All of these efforts are aimed at locating a political solution to the Syrian crisis and restoring peace and security to the Syrian people.

Q: How does China view the peace process between Israel and Palestine and its prospects for success? What is China’s role here?

Peace negotiations resumed between Palestine and Israel last year, and this is a good thing. However, since relations touch on core issues, the obstacles have proliferated. The Palestinian side took a flexible and practical stance in order for negotiations to continue, and we hope that Israel will avoid laying down new issues on the negotiations table and also that Israel will use its words, actions and steps to strengthen support and reduce resistance as a means to ensuring the progress of negotiations. The international community must take a just and fair stance, and launch peaceful efforts to achieve substantial progress in negotiations soon.

As friends of Palestine and all Arab countries, we have maintained unwavering support for the just cause of the Palestinian people. We support the establishment of a fully sovereign and independent Palestinian state on the basis of the 1967 borders with its capital in East Jerusalem. Our country constantly plays a positive role in resolving the Palestinian issue, as it has taken a series of very important steps in the direction of advising reconciliation and encouraging negotiations over the past year. Particularly, China has a four-point vision for settling the Palestinian issue that was presented by President Xi Jinping during his talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas when he visited China, and which is gaining momentum in solidifying international consensus on fostering peace.

I visited both Palestine and Israel at the end of last year and pushed for more efforts to be made as regards President Xi Jinping’s four-point proposal. I told them that mutual recognition of the right to exist is a precondition for negotiations, and that addressing the concerns of the opposite side is an indispensable element. I also said that they must put themselves in each other’s shoes. I think that if the Palestinians and Israelis could translate these three points into realities on the ground, there will be hope for the negotiations.

Palestine, along with all Arab countries, continues to cling to peaceful negotiations as a strategic choice, and we greatly appreciate that. The solution to the Palestinian issue requires joint efforts on the parts of the Palestinians and Israelis, as well as mobilizing the minds and energies of the international community. China is keen to provide more positive energy so as to push forward the peace negotiations between Palestine and Israel and encourage participation of all parties in a determined effort to achieve a comprehensive and just solution to the Palestinian issue as soon as possible.

Q: How do you see the US–China relationship currently, especially after a meeting between the two heads of state? Their meeting focused on competition in the Pacific Ocean, North Korea’s nuclear program, and electronic security?

In the June of last year, President Xi Jinping and President Obama met for a historic meeting at the Annenberg Retreat in California. The two sides reached an important agreement on the establishment of a new type of relationship as dual superpowers. This was a strategic decision taken by both the Chinese and the Americans jointly after assessing their domestic and international standings. The momentum of the Sino–US relations also reflects the determination of China and the United States to break the so-called historical trap of relations between superpowers sliding towards confrontation. The two sides are paving a new road in the era of globalization that will be devoid of confrontation. The relationship is based on mutual respect, cooperation, and mutual gain.

Cooperation between China and the United States has already yielded economic, mercantile, military, humanitarian, cultural, and environmental growth. This upward trajectory was in part a result of the important consensus between the presidents of the two countries. The two countries are always in touch regarding coordinating effective approaches towards the nuclear issue in the Korean Peninsula, and the Iranian nuclear issue, and the Syrian issue, climate change, and Internet security, as well as other topics. The two sides will establish a system based on positive interaction, in which cooperation will override competition in the Asia–Pacific. We hope that the Pacific will become a region governed by a new type of relationship between superpowers. It can be said that the relationship between the two countries is on the verge of even better opportunities for further development. China and the United States are two large countries with differing social systems, histories and cultures. They are at two different stages of development. So there are differences, and naturally there will be problems and challenges in the relations between them. Addressing these will require deliberate and sound policies on both sides.

This year marks the 35th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the United States. During this period, the relationship has made monumental progress and overcome many difficulties and obstacles. The most important conclusion to be drawn from these experiences is the need to respect the core interests and major concerns of each side, as well as their sovereignty and integrity of land. There must also be respect for their social systems and the road to development chosen by each side, lest the Chinese be subjected to interference and sabotage. We are ready to make joint efforts with the United States to establish a new type of relationship between major countries. We want to work to enhance communication, coordination, and cooperation in all fields, and to find appropriate solutions to differences and sensitive issues. We hope to advance Sino–US relations so as to achieve healthy and stable development. This will be best for the two peoples and the peoples of the world.

Q: One last question, what is your take on the current tensions in Sino–Japanese relations?

This tension is not desirable. However, it is the result of repeated provocative steps taken by the Japanese affecting longstanding disputes as the issue of the Diaoyu Islands. Not long ago, the Japanese leadership insisted on visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, which controversially commemorates war criminals of World War II, which brought on worldwide condemnation. This does not seriously impair the political foundation of Sino–Japanese relations, but it does hurt the feelings of the Chinese people, in addition to reducing the mutual trust between the countries on the political and security level, which does not help peace and stability in the region. It has raised caution levels in neighboring countries and in the international community.

We are committed to peace. And we are committed to a policy of friendship and partnership with neighboring countries. We always call for the development of friendly relations, cooperation, and good, neighborly conduct between our country and Japan. We operate on the basis of the principles contained in the four political documents between the two countries, and aim to capitalize on our great spirit of history as we turn toward the future. For many years we have made great efforts to strengthen our relations with Tokyo. We urge the Japanese side to correct its position on issues related to history and territory, and to refrain from provocative steps. It must change its approach, and gain the trust of its Asian neighbors through concrete actions. It must play a constructive role in maintaining peace and stability in the region.

China joins race to arm Iraq

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, right, and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi speak during a press conference in Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Ahmed Saad, Pool)
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, right, and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi speak during a press conference in Baghdad, Iraq, on Sunday, February 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Ahmed Saad, Pool)

Erbil and Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrived in Baghdad on Sunday to discuss bilateral relations and the sale of Chinese weapons to Iraq, only three days after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited the country also partly to discuss arms sales.

Both visits come as the Iraqi army struggles to contain insurgents in the volatile Sunni-dominated Anbar province, where it has sought the help of local tribal factions, some of whom have chosen to side against the government forces.

In a news conference with his Chinese counterpart, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said the two discussed a number of issues including the purchase of Chinese arms.

Zebari added that discussions also included the “Syrian crisis, the Iranian nuclear issue and the Palestinian issue, as well as the growing economic and trade relations between Iraq and China, with China today being Iraq’s biggest trading partner and the largest investor in the Iraqi oil and electricity sectors.”

He added: “There is also political and diplomatic cooperation between the two countries, and Iraq and China have remained on a similar policy which has not changed . . . this visit will open new possibilities in the future and we have agreed to activate the proposals of the Chinese–Iraqi joint ministerial committee.”

On the Syrian crisis, Zebari said Iraq and China were in agreement that military action must be avoided and that the solution of the Iranian nuclear issue should be found through dialogue with the P5+1 group of nations “to spare the region more tension, especially that Iraq would be the country most affected because of its closeness to Iran.”

Wang said his country “was eager to provide Iraq with help to achieve peace and security,” and added that China was “eager to provide constant support for Iraq’s efforts to maintain its independence, sovereignty and the security of its territory.”

Speaking on Syria, Wang said: “China has called for a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis and this is identical to the Iraqi position . . . and that all parties should maintain the basic principles which govern international relations by not interfering in internal affairs and maintaining the security of the region.”

He added: “The Syrian crisis is very complicated, and a political solution will not happen overnight and faces many challenges before it can be achieved through the joint efforts of the international community, including Iraq. We see that it is necessary for the international efforts to continue through Geneva II [negotiations] in order to reach a solution. All Syrian parties must participate in these efforts.”

Wang’s visit was the first by a high-ranking Chinese official since 2003.

Commenting on the visit, Sami Al-Askari, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee in the Iraqi parliament and member of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The visit of the Russian and Chinese foreign ministers to Baghdad within one week—and both are permanent members of the [UN] Security Council—means the isolation of Iraq has been broken and Iraq’s experience in the region, despite all the problems it suffered . . . [can be] seen as a great experience, in addition to Iraq’s becoming a great political and economic ally of both Moscow and Beijing.”

Askari added: “China was one of the first countries whose companies came to Iraq and was a leader in this field. The evidence for this is that it is Iraq’s biggest trading partner.”

Additional reporting by Mohamed Zanganeh from Erbil.

China Formally Appoints Top Diplomats and Defense Minister

Former Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi attends a press conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 9, 2013. Source: AFP PHOTO / WANG ZHAO
Former Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi attends a press conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 9, 2013. Source: AFP PHOTO / WANG ZHAO
Beijing, Reuters—China formally appointed its two new top diplomats and defense minister on Saturday, positions which had already been flagged in advance as part of the new government of President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.

Outgoing foreign minister Yang Jiechi, ambassador to Washington from 2001-2005 and a polished English speaker, was promoted to state councilor with responsibility for foreign policy.

China has only five such councilors and the post is senior to that of foreign minister.

Yang, 62, was replaced as foreign minister by Wang Yi, China’s ambassador to Japan from 2004 to 2007 and a one-time pointman on North Korea.

Both were voted in by the ruling Communist Party’s hand-picked delegates to the annual session of parliament, meeting in central Beijing’s cavernous Great Hall of the People.

Reuters reported on Feb. 27 that both men were likely to get their respective new jobs, signalling that China is keen to get on top of troubled ties with the United States, Japan and North Korea.

Chang Wanquan, who has overseen China’s ambitious space program, was chosen as defense minister.

From a humble background, he has advocated the military’s modernization, something which has jangled regional nerves, and was the frontrunner for the job.

While he sits on the powerful Central Military Commission, headed by President Xi, he is not one of its vice chairmen. The defense minister is more of a figurehead who will be the Chinese military establishment’s face to the outside world.

Defense and foreign policy are both guided by the party’s inner circle, the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee, rather than by their respective ministers.

Still, all three men face challenging jobs.

China has looked warily at the US strategic “pivot” to Asia, fearing it is part of efforts to contain China’s rising power, and both countries have fundamental disagreements about everything from human rights to trade.

China and Japan, the world’s second-and third-largest economies respectively, have always had problematic ties due to Japan’s occupation of parts of China until the end of World War Two. But the relationship deteriorated dramatically last year as a spat flared over ownership of a group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea.

Despite the rhetoric and fears of a military escalation, China and Japan have been trying to set ties back on track, in an acknowledgement of how crucial economic and investment links are. Japanese-speaking Wang should be able to help in this regard.

The urbane Wang, 59, won plaudits for helping improve relations with Taiwan, the self-ruled island China claims as its own, as minister of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office. The two sides have signed a series of economic agreements under his watch since 2008.

The other turbulent area Wang has dealt with close up is North Korea, as China’s representative from 2007 to 2008 to six-party talks involving the two Koreas, the United States, Japan and Russia aimed at curbing Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.

North Korea conducted a third nuclear test on Feb. 12 and is ready to go ahead with a fourth and possibly fifth test. China is the isolated state’s only major ally.