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Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hong Lei's Regular Press Conference on March 17, 2014

Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hong Lei held a press conference on March 17, 2014.

Hong Lei started the press conference by briefing the press on what China has done in search of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight.

Hong Lei: After the Malaysian government announced the latest findings of the missing airplane on March 15, China immediately held an inter-ministerial meeting to discuss how to respond to the new situation. We have asked the Malaysian side to provide more accurate and detailed information, further expand search area, intensify their search efforts and take good care of families of the passengers.

Relevant departments are now coordinating to reorganize their maritime search forces. The principle is that we are adjusting our search direction without reducing search efforts. Based on the latest information provided by the Malaysian side and the search done by Chinese vessels in the past days, we will have a better assessment of the situation and work out a scientific and reasonable search plan.

China's diplomatic and consular missions in relevant countries have expressed the hope that their host countries can help with the search operation, and provide both Malaysia and China with the relevant information.

In a word, searching for the missing plane remains our top priority. China will enhance its cooperation with relevant countries, including Malaysia, to carry forward the search efforts. Even the slightest hope deserves our one hundred percent efforts.

Q: Reports say that the Thai police have recently rescued from human traffickers about 200 people who were believed to be Uyghurs in the southern part of Thailand. Can China confirm that they did come from Xinjiang?

A: China and Thailand have unimpeded channels on law enforcement and security cooperation. At the current stage when the situation and identities of those people are still under investigation and verification, all speculations and comments lack factual basis. It is highly irresponsible for some countries to make comments when the facts are still unclear.

Q: According to the map image released by the Malaysian authorities last Saturday, the missing airplane may have its last contact with satellites at the northern or southern corridor. The northern corridor covers many countries, including China. So far, India, Pakistan, Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar and other countries have denied having detected any radar information relating to the missing airplane. Will China share its radar information with Malaysia?

A: With regard to the requests made by the Malaysian side, China is ready to cooperate on anything that is conducive to the search efforts.

Q: Has China's Ambassador to Malaysia contacted the Malaysian Foreign Ministry? Please brief us on that.

A: Over the past week, the Chinese Embassy in Malaysia and the joint working group sent by the Chinese government have been in close contact and coordination with the Malaysian side. They asked the Malaysian side to provide precise and detailed information and the latest development of the search operation, step up search efforts and take good care of families of the passengers on the missing plane. As for the communication between the Chinese Ambassador and the Malaysian side this morning, I have no information to offer at the moment.

Q: The DPRK reportedly fired 25 short-range rockets into the sea off the east of the Korean Peninsula on the afternoon of March 16. What is China's comment?

A: We have noticed relevant reports. We hope that relevant parties can make more efforts that are conducive to easing the tension and jointly safeguard peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula.

Q: If Crimea becomes part of Russia, will China recognize that?

A: China always respects all countries' sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. The Crimean issue should be resolved politically under a framework of law and order. All parties should exercise restraint and refrain from raising the tension. The international community should play a constructive role in defusing the current tension.

Q: A new round of talks between the P5+1 and Iran on the Iranian nuclear issue is about to take place. Will China send its delegation to the talks? What is China's expectation for this new round of talks?

A: The P5+1 and Iran will hold a new round of talks from March 18 to 20 in Vienna. Wang Qun, Director-General of the Department of Arms Control of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will lead a delegation to the talks.

At present, the talks on the Iranian nuclear issue have entered a new and crucial phase. The Joint Plan of Action is being implemented as scheduled, and negotiations on a comprehensive agreement have recently been launched. This new round of talks will have in-depth discussions on the components of this comprehensive agreement.

All parties should be resolute in resolving this issue peacefully through dialogue and seek common ground while resolving differences in an objective and practical attitude.

We are ready to work with all parties to facilitate dialogue and promote peace, and make new contributions to the peace talks on the Iranian nuclear issue.

Q: In response to China's statement that the Philippine side had promised to tow away the ship "grounded" on the Ren'ai Reef due to "malfunction" in 1999, the Philippine Foreign Ministry made a statement on March 14 saying that the Philippine side deployed in 1999 a serving military vessel as a permanent facility on the Ren'ai Reef in response to China's "occupation" of the Meiji Reef in 1995. According to the Philippine side, this happened before the adoption of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in 2002. What is China's comment?

A: In 1999, the Philippine side made unequivocal commitment to China on many occasions that it would tow away the ship "grounded" on the Ren'ai Reef due to "malfunction". In 2003, the Philippine side made another solemn commitment that it would not become the first country to violate the DOC regarding the Ren'ai Reef. But what we see now is that the Philippine side rejects to tow away the ship, further more, it tries to transport concrete and rebar and other construction materials with a purpose of building facilities on the reef. This behavior goes against its own commitment and also violates the DOC.

More shockingly, the Philippine side made a public statement that the ship was "grounded" 15 years ago with the aim of illegally occupying the Ren'ai Reef. The sitting Philippine government was not the one 15 years ago, but as a country, the Philippines should honor its commitment. Otherwise, it will lose credibility to the international community.

The Chinese government has firm determination and will in safeguarding national sovereignty, and we will never allow any form of occupation of the Ren'ai Reef nor violation of the DOC by the Philippine side. China watches closely and is highly vigilant on further possible provocations in the South China Sea by the Philippines and it must bear all the consequences arising therefrom.

Q: First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama will visit China together with her daughters and mother. During her visit, she will meet with Madame Peng Liyuan, wife of President Xi Jinping. What will this visit bring to China-US relations?

A: At the invitation of Madame Peng Liyuan, wife of President Xi Jinping, First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama and her family will visit China from March 20 to 26. During her stay in China, Madame Peng Liyuan will meet with her in Beijing. The trip will also take Michelle Obama and her family to Xi'an and Chengdu. This trip is made along with the process of building a new model of major-country relationship between China and the US. It is of great significance for the two countries to increase mutual understanding and deepen friendship. We wish this visit a full success.

Q: First, the Malaysian government released the latest results of investigation last Saturday. Based on that, has China adjusted its search area and redeployed searching planes, ships and satellites? Are China's planes, ships and satellites still searching over the South China Sea? Second, is China willing to cooperate with Central Asian countries to search on land?

A: With regard to your first question, as I said before, relevant departments in China responsible for maritime search and rescue have adjusted search plans, and the South China Sea is no longer the focus.

With regard to your second question, China is ready to cooperate on anything that is conducive to the search efforts.

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