|Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hong Lei's Regular Press Conference on March 2, 2016|
Q: It is reported that a bus driving from Oman to the UAE had an accident in Oman, causing multiple casualties including two Chinese citizens. Can you confirm and brief us on what China has done?
A: On March 1 at midday Beijing time, an international long-distance bus driving from Salalah, Oman to Dubai, the UAE collided with a truck in Oman, killing 18 and injuring 16. One Chinese citizen was killed and one slightly injured. The injured Chinese has been discharged from the hospital.
The Chinese Embassy in Oman immediately sent officials to get more information from the site, and assist the injured and the relatives of the victim to properly handle follow-up matters, It has also asked the Omani side to protect the safety and legitimate rights and interests of Chinese citizens.
Q: According to the Philippine media, China has effectively controlled Wufang Jiao in the South China Sea and prevented Philippine fishermen from operating there. Can you confirm and give us your comment?
A: According to information from relevant departments in China, at the end of the year 2015, a foreign vessel was grounded near Wufang Jiao of China's Nansha islands. The owner of the vessel tried many times to tow it away but failed. He then decided to abandon the ship and dismantled and took away its main equipment. If the vessel was left aground for a long time, it might cause possible impediment to navigation safety and damage to the marine environment. Therefore, China Rescue and Salvage of Ministry of Transport recently sent salvage ships to tug the grounded vessel out of the shallow water for proper disposal. During the operation, the Chinese side advised fishing boats near the waters to stay away for navigation security and operation safety. The Chinese ships have returned after the operation.
I want to stress that China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands including Wufang Jiao and the adjacent waters. China is willing to work with ASEAN countries to continue to fully and effectively implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and uphold peace and stability of the South China Sea.
Q: US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on March 1 in a speech in San Francisco that China must not pursue militarization in the South China Sea. He warned China against "aggressive" actions in the South China Sea region, including the placement of surface-to-air missiles on a disputed island, and underscored the US military's determination to safeguard maritime security around the world, particularly in the South China Sea region. What is your response?
A: We have pointed out many times that China's deployment of national defense facilities on its own territory is nothing new. It is the exercise of self-preservation and self-protection right granted by international law. It is not the so-called aggressive action, still less militarization. The US has been building up its military presence in the South China Sea and its neighboring region, carrying out highly-targeted military drills, and sending military vessels and aircraft to conduct frequent close-in surveillance against regional countries all year round. It is those actions that are heightening tensions and driving militarization in the South China Sea.
China is determined and resolute in safeguarding territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests. China and ASEAN countries are confident and capable of jointly maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea. The Chinese side urges the US side to stop the hype, stop the sensationalization that misleads the public, and stop threatening words and deeds. It should respect the efforts made by regional countries to uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea.