China not trying to ‘replace America’: Foreign minister

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks to the media after a news conference during the National People's Congress (NPC), China's parliamentary body, in Beijing on Thursday. (Reuters)
Updated 09 March 2018
0

China not trying to ‘replace America’: Foreign minister

BEIJING: China’s foreign minister sought Thursday to downplay concerns about Beijing’s global ambitions, while also hinting at consequences for countries that do not fall in line on issues like Taiwan.
Pledging that China had no desire to “replace America” on the global stage, Wang Yi said the Asian nation’s path “is totally different than the one that has already been taken by traditional major powers.”
“The more China develops, the more it can contribute to the world,” Wang said in a wide-ranging press conference.
Wang spoke as 3,000 members of China’s mostly ceremonial national legislature have gathered for their annual meeting in Beijing, where they are set to grant President Xi Jinping a nearly limitless mandate to realize his vision of a resurgent China.
Xi’s ambitions are not limited to home: He has clearly articulated his vision of putting China at the center of world affairs, a position reflecting its Chinese name: “the Middle Kingdom.”
The departure from the country’s long-held stance of keeping a low profile had raised fears abroad of spreading Chinese influence.
On Thursday, Wang tried to strike a balance between reassurance and assertiveness, as Beijing deals with pressure from countries like the US to change its behavior.
Here are some of the main takeaways:
As US President Donald Trump threatens a trade war with China, Wang warned that Beijing is ready to take an “appropriate and necessary response.” He said: “China’s development and rejuvenation can’t be stopped. Some Americans think that therefore China wants to replace the US’s international role, but that is a fundamental strategic misjudgment.” China and the US “don’t need to be rivals, they should be partners.”
Nevertheless, China will not give an inch in the South China Sea, where it has built an archipelago of artificial islands hosting military facilities that the US and other nations say threaten freedom of navigation through the strategically vital waterway.
Beijing’s “resolve to protect the peace and the stability of the South China Sea cannot be shaken,” Wang said about the region, where it has overlapping territorial claims with the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei. The problems in the region are due to “foreign forces” which “have sent fully armed warships and fighters to the South China Sea to flaunt their military might,” he said, referring to operations by the US, Australia and Britain to assert their right to sail through the region.
Although China does not recognize the self-ruled island as an independent nation, Wang took questions about Beijing’s relationship with Taipei, warning that the Taiwanese government must come around to China’s way of thinking if it hopes to enjoy “peaceful development.” The relationship between Beijing and Taipei has soured since the election of President Tsai Ying-wen, who has refused to acknowledge the so-called “1992 consensus,” which agrees that there is only one China without specifying whether Beijing or Taipei is its rightful representative.
“The person who locked the door should open it,” Wang said.
Only by taking the “correct path” of recognizing the consensus can “cross-strait relations restart building a promising prospect for peaceful development.”
Japanese Prime Minister Abe is expected to make a visit to China after years of tense relations set off by a territorial dispute and festering disagreements over the legacy of the Second World War. After mocking a Japanese reporter’s Chinese language skills, Wang said that China “wants the Japanese side to speak credibly in its politics, to behave properly in its actions.”
Wang cautiously welcomed the apparent breakthrough over the North Korea nuclear issue as an “important step in the right direction.” He urged the US and North Korea to hold talks as soon as possible after Seoul said that Pyongyang was ready to discuss denuclearization with Washington in return for security guarantees. “Now is the crucial moment to test the sincerity of the parties to solve the nuclear issue,” he said.


Nations defend UN Human Rights Council after US pullout

Empty seats of the United States delegation are pictured one day after the US announced their withdraw during a session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland on Wednesday. (REUTERS)
Updated 21 June 2018
0

Nations defend UN Human Rights Council after US pullout

  • Russia’s Foreign Ministry had earlier accused the US of “gross cynicism” and “disregard” for the UN
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the US withdrawal

GENEVA: Diplomats from across the globe defended the UN Human Rights Council on Wednesday after the US withdrew from a body it branded an anti-Israel “cesspool.”
Slovenian ambassador Vojislav Suc, who currently holds the council’s rotating presidency and has been pushing a faltering reform drive, described the Geneva-based chamber as the best place to trigger action on dangerous rights crises.
“Let me say it very clearly, if human rights issues are not discussed here, in this very room, they have little chance to be dealt with meaningfully anywhere else,” he told the council’s 38th session, hours after Washington announced its pullout.
Suc further praised the 47-member council as the “only intergovernmental body responding to human rights issues and situations worldwide.”
Once he receives formal notification of the US withdrawal, Suc said he would arrange for the American seat to be removed and work with the General Assembly to elect a replacement member. China, which has on multiple occasions voiced support for multilateral institutions abandoned by US President Donald Trump, portrayed the council as “a major body... to promote the realization of human rights.”
“All delegations attach great importance to this body,” said Chinese ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Yu Jianhua.
China currently sits on the council and rights groups have repeatedly criticized Beijing for seeking to stifle criticism of its own conduct.
The EU assured that it “remains steadfastly and reliably committed to the Human Rights Council,” and said it would continue to try to fix the body’s problems despite the US withdrawal.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry had earlier accused the US of “gross cynicism” and “disregard” for the UN.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and UN ambassador Nikki Haley announced the decision on Wednesday, making good on a threat Haley made in Geneva a year ago.
They said their calls for change, notably to fix “hypocrisy” and “unrelenting bias” against Israel were ignored.
Membership of the council, established in 2006 to replace the disgraced Human Rights Commission, has long been controversial.
Current members include Burundi, the Philippines and Venezuela — all nations accused of massive abuses against civilians.
But the main US objection was the council’s Agenda Item 7, which mandates discussion of Israel at each of the three annual sessions.
Israel is the only country recorded as a dedicated agenda item.
While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the US withdrawal, experts and diplomats have noted that without US pushback, resolutions approving investigations of Israel’s conduct in the Occupied Palestinian Territories could multiply.