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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Transcript: Press Conference of Mr Tang Jiaxuan,

Foreign Minister of China

(June 4, 1998, Geneva)

Mr Tang Jiaxuan: Ladies and gentlemen, good evening. I am very happy to meet all of you, friends from the media. According to the relevant provisions and spirit of the Charter of the United Nations, permanent members of the UN Security Council shoulder important responsibility in preserving international peace and security. Under the joint initiative of China and the United States, which was positively responded by Russia, the United Kingdom and France, the foreign ministers of the five countries have gathered here today in Geneva to discuss such issues as how to prevent nuclear arms race in South Asia and how to ease tension in that part of the world. Our meeting was a success. It adopted an important joint communique. In my view, the meeting today serves as a good beginning of a process to safeguard peace and security in the world and particularly in South Asia. It is the common responsibility of the international community to defend the nuclear non-proliferation regime and is in the the interest of all the people of the world. The meeting of the foreign ministers of the P5 laid a solid foundation for further efforts to be made the international community towards that end. Now I am ready to take up your questions.

Xinhua News Agency: Mr Minister, can you outline the major achievement of the meeting. Are there any differences existing as you are going to hold separate press conferences?

Tang: It is not right to assume that since we hold separate press conferences, there must be differences among us. Because some foreign ministers will have to leave Geneva tonight, as you know, foreign ministers all have very busy schedules. From the point of view of making the most efficient use of time, I believe that holding separate press conferences are much more efficient than having five of us all together as a group and each taking individual questions.

Foreign Ministers of the five countries have come here as representatives of their respective countries. Naturally they have their own views on different issues. It would be inconceivable for anyone to envisage that all of us are in complete agreement with one another on all issues. However, in my view, the biggest achievement of the meeting is that everyone agree that, on the issue of South Asia, particularly under the current circumstances, there is a lot of common ground among the five permanent members of the UN security council. Following is a summary I have made about the common ground we have among us:

All the five foreign ministers are fully aware of the fact that, being permanent members of the UN security council, we shoulder extremely significant responsibility in preserving regional and world peace and security. All of us believe that efforts should be made as soon as possible in order to stop the nuclear arms race in South Asia that has been triggered by India. And we all stand for effective efforts to safeguard the international non-proliferation regime on the basis of NPT and CTBT. All expressed the hope that all issues concerning South Asia, including such sensitive issue as Kashmir which concerns territorial dispute, will be resolved gradually through peaceful means. All hope to see lasting peace and stability in South Asia. Actually, the most representative and most significant common grounds that we have between us have all been written into the joint communique.

CNN: Minister Tang, you said that the ministers decided to take a small step. Why didn't you take advantage of this opportunity to take a big step?

Tang: Maybe my mandarin is not that standard because what I referred to was the first step of the process, not a small step. However, to answer your question, I believe that “big” or “small” are relative. We should make big steps as much as we can. However, sometimes, when it is necessary, we may take small steps which may serve to prepare good conditions for big strides.

German News Agency: Mr Minister, in the paragraph six of the joint communique, you stated that the five nuclear powers remain determined to fulfill their commitments relating to nuclear disarmament under Article VI of the NPT. If this is true, why then China, together with other four, is not engaged in the negotiation here in the UN disarmament conference on the complete abolition of nuclear weapons? My second question is, even though this meeting here today is about Indian and Pakistani testing, it is obvious that India seems to be very concerned about China. Is there anything you think that China could do to accommodate and to ease those concerns of India, for instance, in your own nuclear weapons policy?

Tang: I'd like to answer your second question first. After the nuclear tests conducted by India, some people in India, including some key political figures, claimed that that China constituted an immediate and direct threat to India and that this was an important reason for the Indian nuclear tests. However, in our view, these allegations are aimed at covering up what India has done. They are untenable. They are only attempts aimed at pouring dirty water on China. Actually, these claims are not supported by many people in India, not even the leader of the Congress Party. China has made its own analysis and has expressed our own opinions on the allegations that India has made. If you are interested in this, you may check the relevant documents that China has already issued in this regard.

Since the first day when China conducted it nuclear test in the 1960s, we have announced that it is our fundamental position to achieve complete prohibition and thorough destruction of all nuclear weapons, and this has been our consistent position over the years and it will remain our policy in the future. There will not be any change in this policy. Actually China is the only one among all the nuclear weapon states that has unilaterally announced that it will not be the first to use nuclear weapons and it will not resort to the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states or nuclear weapon free zones. China has already acceded to NPT and it has also made important and positive contributions to the CTBT negotiations and to the final conclusion of the treaty. China was among the first countries to sign the CTBT. Now that we have acceded to NPT and signed the CTBT, we will certainly shoulder our responsibilities by strictly observing all the relevant provisions in the treaties and honouring our commitments. China always keeps its words.

My reading into your first question is: why do the big powers fail to take action first now that you are condemning India. Discussions in our meeting have shown that all the five foreign ministers came to the meeting with a serious and pragmatic attitude. The Chinese position is clear-cut. What India has done in this regard runs counter to the trend of the times after the end of the Cold War and the will of the people in the world. After the Cold War, it is the common will of the people and also the main theme of the world to achieve a ban on the nuclear testing and consolidate the nuclear non-proliferation regime and to oppose further proliferation of the nuclear weapons. India's nuclear testing has led to the nuclear testing of Pakistan and that has resulted in a situation of nuclear arms race, an unfortunate situation that no one hopes to see. The document adopted in this meeting strongly condemns the action taken in this regard and I believe this not only reflected the will of the participants of the meeting but more importantly it embodies the main international trend and also the common and strong will of the people of the world.

UPI: Mr Foreign Minister, I was wondering if, during your meeting here in Geneva, you discussed any future action if both India and Pakistan opt to continue testing and not to heed your warning and advice to sign on the CTBT unconditionally and immediately?

TANG: In my opening remarks, I stressed that this meeting marks a beginning of an important process and I believe it is a very good beginning. It is not realistic to expect the current situation to change completely soon after the meeting. And it is not possible that the countries concerned will immediately change their courses of action simply because the document is adopted and the calls are made. I believe that enormous efforts are needed before we can complete the whole process. Much more is required to follow it up. The characteristic of this meeting is that the P5 meeting here represent the common will of the international community. This is a strong message that we send to those countries.

REUTERS: Mr Minister, you mentioned what you called the sensitive issue of Kashmir. The paragraph five of the joint communique does not contain the earlier languages agreed by the experts which called on India and Pakistan to refrain from threatening action, troop movements and other provocative actions along the line of control in Kashmir. Can you comment on this watering down of the joint communique? And secondly, would China like to see that language remain?

TANG: Before coming into being, every diplomatic document has to go through repeated and numerous negotiations and consultations. In China, we believe that the spirit that one needs to follow is to seek common ground while putting aside the differences. In other words, we should seek the major common ground and reserve the minor differences. I believe that, through discussions, especially through the discussions of the foreign ministers, this point has already been made very clear and I don't believe there is any major difference in this matter. Naturally different parties may have their respective views on the formula or wording of the text. They may also have different emphasis. However, on the most important aspects of this matter, there was total agreement. For instance, we all considered that this is a very sensitive issue which calls for great attention and that, if not handled properly, it it may cause great danger. We have to take necessary measures and to call on India and Pakistan to sit down to talk and find ways to resolve their differences peacefully through negotiations. On all these important aspects, we saw eye to eye. I did not hear any different opinion on this regard.

Kuwaiti News Agency: Sir, the communique didn't mention anything about any other state that are seeking or actually having nuclear potential like Israel. Is there any question of making mention of Israel in the communique?

TANG: Because the meeting was devoted to South Asia, naturally the final communique contains reference only to South Asia.

Indian News Agency: I appreciate the paragraph five of the communique when you say that the ministers affirm their readiness to assist India and Pakistan in a manner acceptable to both sides. Would you say that you are prepared to offer the services of mediation or do you want to bring it to the Security Council? How would you feel as a good way out?

TANG: I believe first of all that it is up to the two parties directly involved to solve the matter by resorting to all appropriate means, including the means of dialogue, in order to seek a gradual solution of the matter. As we say it in China, it is up to the one who tied the knot to untie it. As a close neighbor to India and Pakistan and to the entire region of South Asia, China has stressed for many years that, on the question of Kashmir, the two sides directly involved should adopt a cool-headed approach and exercise restraint, and set store by the overall situation of the peace, security, stability and development in your region and handle the matter with prudence. We hope that you will work through negotiations, dialogues, and consultations and seek a solution to the question through peaceful means.

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