Remarks With Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of StateGreat Hall of the PeopleBeijing, ChinaSeptember 5, 2012
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter.) Ladies and gentlemen, the joint press conference of Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will now begin. Now Foreign Minister Yang will make an opening statement.
FOREIGN MINISTER YANG: (In Chinese.)
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter.) Now Secretary Clinton will make an opening statement.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Let me begin by thanking Foreign Minister Yang for his long commitment to strengthening the bonds between China and the United States. And we have had constructive and productive in-depth discussions last night for a number of hours and then again this morning with President Hu Jintao. I conveyed to President Hu Jintao the warm regards from President Obama.
I am pleased to return to China for my fifth visit, I think, although I’ve lost track, as U.S. Secretary of State. I came on my very first trip in early 2009, and this has been part of our overarching engagement in Asia. And as Minister Yang just said, we have institutionalized a number of mechanisms for ongoing dialogue. Our Strategic and Economic Dialogue, our consultation on People-to-People Exchange, our Strategic Security Dialogue, our Asia Pacific Consultation, our new Middle East Dialogue, and all the rest of our engagement really exemplifies how hard we are working at every level of our government to build habits of cooperation and to open channels of communication. We literally consult with each other almost on a daily basis about every consequential issue facing our nations and the world today.
As I have said before, our two nations are trying to do something that has never been done in history, which is to write a new answer to the question of what happens when an established power and a rising power meet. Both President Obama and I have said frequently that the United States welcomes the rise of a strong, prosperous, and peaceful China. We want China to continue to succeed in delivering economic opportunity to the Chinese people. That will, in turn, have a positive impact on the global economy. We want China to play a greater role in world affairs. That strengthens global stability, helps solve urgent challenges. And we are convinced that our two countries gain far more when we cooperate with one another than when we descend into an unhealthy competition. So we are committed to managing our differences effectively and expanding our cooperation wherever and whenever possible.
We see this moment as a historic opportunity for our two countries, and indeed, for others as well. To make the most of it, the United States and China must strive to achieve practical outcomes that benefit each of us as well as the broader region and world. That has been the theme of my meetings in Beijing today, and it started with our extensive conversations with the Foreign Minister and his colleagues, which went well past midnight and then continued this morning. Later today, I will be meeting with other Chinese officials, as the Foreign Minister has just outlined. And let me say how pleased I am to have this chance to exchange views in advance of APEC, where I will be representing President Obama.
One issue we discussed at length is the evolving situation in Syria. The United States strongly believes the simplest and best solution to end the violence is for there to be a peaceful political transition that respects the dignity, aspirations, and rights of the Syrian people. The United States wants to work with China and other international partners to take effective steps to end the violence and bring about that political transition, because doing so, we believe, serves our common interest as well as the interest of Syrians and others in the region.
We discussed our shared commitment in preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and our work together in the P-5+1 as well as at the upcoming IAEA Board of Governors meeting. China recently reduced its purchase of Iranian oil; and while it took this step for its own commercial and energy security reasons, it aligns with our shared interest regarding Iran and our hope that Iran will live up to its international obligations.
We had a productive conversation about how China can use its unique influence with respect to North Korea. There is an opportunity for the new leadership in North Korea to improve the lives of the North Korean people. At the same time, we wish to continue our joint efforts to bring about the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
I also raised the growing threat of cyber attacks that are occurring on an increasing basis. Both the United States and China are victims of cyber attacks. Intellectual property, commercial data, national security information is being targeted. This is an issue of increasing concern to the business community and the Government of the United States, as well as many other countries, and it is vital that we work together to curb this behavior.
Another issue, as the Minister mentioned, was the South China Sea. I reiterated, as I have on many occasions, the United States does not take a position on competing territorial claims. Our interest is in the maintenance of peace and stability, respect for international law, freedom of navigation, and unimpeded lawful commerce. And as a friend to the countries involved, we do believe it’s in everyone’s interest that China and ASEAN engage in a diplomatic process toward the shared goal of a code of conduct.
On some of these issues, China and the United States have much to agree on, and we are engaged in very cooperative behavior to try to reach our common goal. On others, such as human rights, we do not always see eye to eye, but we continue to talk together. And we will never agree on all matters. No two countries do. But we are learning how to manage our differences, deal openly with misunderstandings when they do occur, and remain in communication as transparently and clearly as possible. We have taken to heart the vision set by our two presidents to build a relationship that is positive, cooperative, and comprehensive and that delivers benefits to both our nations, and that, in turn, helps to drive peace, stability, progress, and prosperity throughout the region and the world.
So let me again thank the Foreign Minister and President Hu Jintao for this friendship, for this very important set of consultations. I look forward to the rest of my meetings today, and I thank the people of China for once again welcoming me and my delegation to your country.
FOREIGN MINISTER YANG: (Via interpreter.) Thank you, Madam Secretary.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter.) Now we open up the floor for questions. China Daily.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter.) Good morning, Madam Secretary. The United States is implementing a rebalancing strategy in the Asia Pacific region. And some senior U.S. officials, including yourself, have repeatedly said that this is not targeted at China. But judging from some recent U.S. moves in the region, including the strengthening of military alliances with countries in the region, many people have come to the conclusion that the fundamental role of the strategy is to contain China and to thwart China’s development. How do you look at this?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you for asking that question, because I want to be very clear. As the President and I have said many times, the United States welcomes a strong, stable, prosperous China that plays a role in world affairs commensurate with its size and helps to maintain and shape the global order. And we believe strongly that China has a vital role as a force for security and peace, stability and prosperity, regionally and globally. And so along with the rest of the international community, the United States counts on China’s leadership in addressing many of our common global challenges.
So that is why we have worked so intensively. We have deepened and broadened our cooperation on a range of issues bilaterally, regionally, and globally. Our two presidents have met 12 times. Vice President Biden and Vice President Xi have had very successful exchanged visits in each of our countries. We have held four Strategic and Economic Dialogues, which took the government-to-government relationship much deeper and broader than at any time prior to the Obama Administration.
So I’m very proud of the strength and resilience that we have built into our relationship. It makes it possible for us to talk about anything and to find ways to tackle issues frankly and forthrightly.
Now, that includes our work on economic and trade issues, which are very critical to creating jobs and opportunity on both sides of the Pacific. We are very clear, as we have these discussions, about the need to develop what we call a level playing field for economic investments in both our countries. It also enables us to work together through multilateral institutions, like the East Asia Summit, which the United States has joined out of respect for the importance of that organization; APEC, which is another vehicle. I’ll be seeing President Hu and other Chinese officials in Vladivostok in just a few days.
So it means we can cooperate on a much broader range of issues, but we do not see eye-to-eye on everything. And I would not expect anyone to imagine that two countries as large and diverse as we are would ever see eye-to-eye. We have different experiences, different perspectives. But what we have done is to embed the importance of dialogue and cooperation so that when we work together, it’s to the benefit of everyone. When we have these differences, we work through them.
And I am absolutely convinced that our collaboration has been vital. We’ve worked together on peace in Sudan and South Sudan. We are working to deal with Iran’s nuclear ambitions. We haven’t agreed on how to handle Syria, but we haven’t stopped talking about what should be done, because the violence continues. The instability is quite concerning. We don’t agree on a lot of human rights issues, but we have maintained a strong and ongoing dialogue. And this is a relationship that matters to both of us, and I am very convinced that we’ve established a strong foundation, government-to-government and people-to-people.
I cannot help what someone in your country says or someone in my country says. We are going to have critics in both of our countries who are going to second-guess decisions that we are making. But I feel strongly that we are on the right track in building a positive, cooperative, comprehensive relationship for the 21st century.
MS. NULAND: All right. Next question. (Laughter.) The next question, Indira Lakshmanan from Bloomberg News, please.
QUESTION: Thank you. Foreign Minister Yang, your ministry spokesman said this week that countries outside the region shouldn’t intervene in China Seas territorial disputes. Do you accept that the U.S. has a legitimate national interest in ensuring freedom of navigation and commerce in the South and East China Seas? Or does Vice President Xi’s cancellation of his meeting with the Secretary signal displeasure with U.S. interference? And do you agree with state media commentaries that say increased U.S. naval and military presence in the Pacific is about containing China?
And Madam Secretary, do you come out of these talks any more confident that China is ready to sign up to a code of conduct on the South Seas issues?
FOREIGN MINISTER YANG: (Via interpreter.) On the South China Sea, the position of the Chinese Government has been consistent and clear-cut. China has sovereignty over the islands in the South China Sea and their adjacent waters. There is plentiful historical and jurisprudential evidence for that.
As for the dispute over the sovereignty of some islands and reefs of the Nansha Islands and the overlapping rights, interests, and claims over some waters of the South China Sea, these should be discussed by the directly concerned countries on the basis of the fact – of historical fact and international law, and handled and settled through direct negotiations and friendly consultation. People talk about the importance of respecting the DOC. What I have outlined is not just China’s position, but an important principle and spirit of the DOC. It is the consensus of all the signatories to the DOC and important commitment the parties have made.
Recently, I have visited several of these Asian countries, who are also member-states of ASEAN. Like China, these countries also believe that the parties concerned should act in accordance with the principles and spirit of the DOC and on the basis of consensus work towards the eventual adoption of a code of conduct in the South China Sea.
Nowhere else do China and the United States share more converging interest and interact more frequently than in the Asia Pacific region. At the moment, the international situation continues to undergo profound and complex changes, and the prospect of a world economic recovery is still quite grim. We hope that China and the United States will work together to develop a positive and pragmatic relationship. That is also the shared expectation of the people in the Asia Pacific region. We hope to work with the United States and other countries in the Asia Pacific to make our region one of openness, inclusiveness, mutual benefit, and win-win progress.
As for the United States policy towards the Asia Pacific region, we have always hoped that the United States would size up the situation and make sure that its policy is in conformity with the trends of our current era and the general wish of countries in the region to seek peace, development, and cooperation. And this is also China’s wish and has been China’s way of behavior. We believe our two sides should step up consultation on Asia Pacific affairs and to make a success of the East Asia Summit and other important meetings before the end of the year.
And I wish to emphasize that the Asia Pacific Economic Leaders meeting is just a couple of days away. Our two sides need to step up communication and cooperation to make sure the APEC meeting will be a full success.
The current schedule of the Secretary’s visit has been agreed by the two sides. I hope people will not add unnecessary speculation. We attach a great deal of importance to Secretary Clinton’s visit to China. And I want to add also that the freedom and safety of navigation in the South China Sea is assured. For China and our neighboring countries, the South China Sea is really a lifeline for exchanges, trade, and commerce. There is no issue currently in this area, nor will there ever be issues in that area in the future. Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I appreciate the Minister’s comments about the commitment China has to a code of conduct that was foreshadowed in the Declaration of Conduct agreed to by China and ASEAN nations 10 years ago. We believe, as I said in Jakarta, that it is timely now to proceed with that work and help to lower the tensions and create the code of conduct in the next period, hopefully in preparation for the East Asia Summit.
After my talks over the last few days, I believe that with leadership and commitment China and ASEAN can ramp up their diplomacy. And the United States stands ready to support that process in any way that would be helpful to the parties.
MS. NULAND: Next question, Margaret Brennan, CBS News.
QUESTION: Thank you. On Iran, it’s continuing to pursue a nuclear program and negotiations have stalled. Specifically, what steps is China willing to take to prevent the pursuit of a nuclear weapon?
And on Syria, China at the Security Council has blocked any outside intervention to stop the ongoing violence. Is there any agreement on how to bring about a political transition?
FOREIGN MINISTER YANG: (Via interpreter.) On the question of nuclear issues in the Middle East, I wish to emphasize that China is opposed to the efforts of any country, including Iran, to develop nuclear weapons. At the same time, we believe the Iranian nuclear issue should be resolved peacefully through diplomatic negotiations. We believe there is positive value in the P-5+1 dialogue with Iran, whatever form it may take. We believe the parties should continue to exercise calm and be committed to diplomatic negotiations.
Some parties have put forward some proposals. They need to be studied seriously. The positive elements in those proposals should be taken seriously and be incorporated. China has been active and serious in our participation in P-5+1 dialogue with Iran. And in our contact with various parties, we’ve been emphasizing that there should be a clear and objective reading of the situation. China stands ready to stay in close contact, communication, and coordination with the United States and other relevant parties on the Iranian nuclear issue.
China strictly abides by the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. Of course, all along we have been opposed to unilateral sanctions. When such sanctions affect other countries and damage other countries’ interests, it is something we cannot accept. Although there might be some divergent views between China, the United States, or others on the Iranian issue, we believe there is an ongoing momentum of exchange, communication, and cooperation. And we hope to sustain the momentum of exchanges and cooperation with the relevant parties. China will continue to work persistently for the peaceful settlement of the Iranian nuclear issue.
On the question of Syria, I wish to emphasize that although Mr. Kofi Annan has stepped down as the Joint Special Envoy, but it is the general view of the international community that his six-point plan should continue to be implemented. Secretary Clinton and I and the foreign ministers of some other countries took part in the Foreign Ministerial Meeting of the Action Group for Syria, which took place in Geneva. Like many countries, China shares the view that the communique of that foreign ministers meeting has positive significance for appropriately handling and resolving the Syrian issue. And we are willing to ramp up communication with the relevant countries in the UN Security Council and to carry out coordination. And the relevant UN Security Council resolutions regarding Syria should be implemented in earnest.
Although the situation is very complex, China has been emphasizing all along that the various parties should arrive at a cessation of fire and an end to violence, and the various parties in Syria should begin a political dialogue. And like many countries, we support a period of political transition in Syria.
We also believe that any solution should come from the people of Syria and reflect their wishes. It should not be imposed from outside. We are all member-states of the United Nations. We believe that on the question of Syria the purposes and principles of the UN Charter should be upheld and implemented, especially the principle of non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs.
And on the question of Syria, let me emphasize that China is not partial to any individual or any party. I think history will judge that China’s position on the Syrian question is a promotion of the appropriate handling and resolution of the Syria issue. For what we have in mind is the interest of the people in Syria and the region and the interest of peace, stability, and development in the region and around the world.
The various countries have some differing views on the issue of Syria. I believe the parties need to increase their consultation, all for the sake of peace, stability, and development in the region as well as the well being of the Syrian people.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much for your question. And before I turn to Syria, let me just say we have worked very closely with China in the P-5+1 and in the Security Council to create unprecedented pressure on the Iranian Government.
With respect to Syria, it is no secret that we have been disappointed by Russia and China’s actions blocking tougher UN Security Council resolutions, and we hope to continue to unite behind a real path forward to end the violence in Syria. We share the goal of wanting to see the violence end and the political transition begin, and we are discussing additional ways we can bring that about.
We believe that the situation in Syria is a threat to peace and stability in the entire region, and the longer the conflict goes on the greater the risk that it spills over borders and destabilizes neighboring countries. We have already seen dangerous clashes in Lebanon and growing tensions in Turkey and Jordan. We have discussed with our Chinese counterparts the need to respond to the UN’s appeal for contributions to support the humanitarian needs of the people. The best course of action remains to unite the Security Council behind real consequences if President Assad continues to brutalize his own people and threaten the security of the region.
I agree with the Foreign Minister that the communique issued as a result of our meeting in Geneva is a very useful framework for moving forward, and we will continue to consult to see whether that is something that the Security Council itself could adopt as a message to the government and the opposition about what is expected.
Meanwhile, the United States will continue to work with a growing group of likeminded nations to support the Syrian opposition and plan for the day after Assad goes, because we are convinced that he will. Thank you.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter.) Final question, Xinhua News Agency.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter.) I have a question for Foreign Minister Yang. We’ve taken note of the repeated statements from both China and the United States on various occasions that both sides are committed to building a cooperative partnership and to exploring a new type of major country relationship. But we also see that from time to time the two countries have disputes on some economic and trade issues. Some people even posit that confrontation between China and the United States is inevitable. How do you look at this?
FOREIGN MINISTER YANG: (Via interpreter.) Before answering this question, please allow me to make some additional points regarding the Iranian nuclear issue.
The UN Secretary General and the Arab League have appointed a new Joint Special Envoy for Syria, Mr. Brahimi. Recently, I talked with him on the phone. I said in the phone call that China fully supports his mediation efforts, and we hope all the parties will also support his mediation efforts so that there can be an appropriate and peaceful solution to the situation in Syria.
We hope that members of the international community will bring their positive influence to bear and get the various parties in Syria to adopt a realistic, calm, and constructive attitude so that there can be an early beginning of political dialogue and transition in that country. A Syria that is peaceful, stable, and enjoying development, bringing benefits to the people of not just that country but also the region.
And we pay very close attention to the humanitarian issue surrounding Syria. We have already channeled humanitarian assistance to some people in Syria in plight, and we will provide assistance to the Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, and some other countries.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of Mr. Nixon’s visit to China and the issuance of the Shanghai Communique. In these 40 years, the China-U.S. relationship has gone through a lot, but generally speaking it has been continuously moving forward, bringing tangible benefits to the people of our two countries and contributing to peace, stability, and development in the world. President Hu Jintao and President Obama have had 12 face-to-face meetings, and they have reached important consensus on working together to push forward a China-U.S. cooperative partnership based on mutual respect and mutual benefit and on working together to explore the construction of a new type of major country relationship. This points the direction for the further development of our bilateral relationship. The various government departments in both countries should redouble efforts to implement this joint vision of our presidents.
The economic relationship between China and the United States is an important driving force of our overall relationship. In the economic exchanges between two large nations such as ours, it is quite inevitable that there might be some disputes or even frictions. We hope that both sides will act in the spirit of openness and appropriately handle and resolve these issues through consultation. Actually, the two sides have already made some important progress in that regard.
China and the United States differ from each other in our histories, our cultures, ideologies, social systems, and actual national conditions. So it’s impossible for our two countries to see eye to eye on all the issues, but we believe that the mutual respect for each other’s core interests and major concerns is an important precondition for the steady and smooth development of our bilateral relationship. If we can stay focused on that, then we can overcome various disputes or frictions and their distraction to the relationship and maintain the dialogue and cooperation, which is the primary facet of our relationship and to make sure this relationship will continue to be mutually beneficial going forward.
It is apparent to all that China has made important progress in its human rights. On the basis of mutual respect and nonintervention in other’s internal affairs, we’d like to continue to have human rights dialogue with the United States and some other countries.
Like many countries, China is also a victim of cyber attacks. We’d like to work with the United States and some others to step up our communication and cooperation with respect to ensuring cyber security.
And China is making continuous efforts towards the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the maintenance of peace and stability on the Peninsula. We support the efforts of the relevant countries to maintain and increase dialogue with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
In short, history and facts has repeatedly proven that China and the United States have interwoven interests, and cooperation will benefit both sides where confrontation will hurt both sides. It has been China’s clear choice to work to promote our cooperative partnership with the United States on the basis of the three joint communiques and joint statements. This will serve the fundamental interests of people in both countries, and it is what the international community expects us to do in the 21st century.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter.) This brings us to the end of the joint press conference. I want to thank Foreign Minister Yang and Secretary Clinton.