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Cablegate: May 13 Mfa Press Briefing: Sichuan Earthquake, Burma

VZCZCXRO2844
OO RUEHCN RUEHGH RUEHVC
DE RUEHBJ #1844/01 1341050
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 131050Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIJING
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7258
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 1923
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 0653
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 8995

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIJING 001844

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV KOLY KS BM
SUBJECT: MAY 13 MFA PRESS BRIEFING: SICHUAN EARTHQUAKE, BURMA
DISASTER ASSISTANCE, SIX-PARTY TALKS

BEIJING 00001844 001.2 OF 002

1. Key points at the May 13 MFA press briefing were:

-- China welcomes offers of international assistance for disaster
relief after the May 12 earthquake in Sichuan.

-- No foreign casualties from the earthquake have been reported, but
the Foreign Ministry is looking into reports that a group of 15
Britons is missing.

-- Journalists will face difficulties traveling in
earthquake-affected areas (some of which are previously closed
ethnic Tibetan regions), but the Foreign Ministry will endeavor to
"create conditions" for journalists to travel to the affected
areas.

-- The spokesman said that China would do its utmost to press ahead
with Olympic preparations in spite of the quake, and that the
Beijing Olympic Committee would make a determination on whether to
make changes to the torch relay.

-- In light of the earthquake, China will continue to assist Burma
with the cyclone disaster relief "according to our capabilities."

-- The spokesman noted recent positive progress on the
implementation of Phase II of the Six-Party process, and that
normalization of U.S.-DPRK relations had shown "improvement."

China Welcomes International Assistance
---------------------------------------

2. At the May 13, 2008 regular MFA press briefing, MFA Spokesman Qin
Gang said that many countries and international organizations (IOs)
had sent immediate condolences and expressions of support for China
after the earthquake that devastated parts of Sichuan province May
12. Asked if China would accept offers of international assistance
for disaster relief, Qin said that China "welcomes" such offers. He
said that China has opened "relevant channels" with the
international community for accepting such offers and that the
Chinese authorities are ready for contact with foreign countries and
IOs that want to offer assistance.

No Reports of Foreigners Killed or Injured
------------------------------------------

3. Asked about reports that 15 Britons were among the missing
following the earthquake, Qin said that the Foreign Ministry has not
yet received any reports that foreigners were killed or injured. He
was unaware of the report of the 15 Britons but said that the
Foreign Ministry would look into the report. He said that local
authorities in the affected areas attach great importance to the
safety of foreigners in their areas, and that the Foreign Ministry
is in contact with local authorities and foreign embassies and
consulates in China to monitor the situation. Asked about reports
from the state-run Xinhua news agency that 37 people were killed
when a tourist bus fell off a cliff during a landslide related to
the earthquake, Qin said he was unaware of the specifics of the
report.

Media Coverage of the Quake
---------------------------

4. Asked if foreign journalists would be allowed to travel to areas
affected by the earthquake given that some of the same areas have
been closed following last month's unrest in predominantly ethnic
Tibetan areas, Qin stressed that the transportation and
communication infrastructure in affected areas has been damaged and
that journalists who choose to go would face very difficult
circumstances. He noted that roads into the affected areas were
destroyed and aid was being delivered by airdrop in some areas. He
said the Foreign Ministry would endeavor to "create conditions" for
journalists to travel to the areas. He urged journalists who go to
the affected areas to remain alert and contact the local Foreign
Affairs Office in any emergency. Qin said that the Foreign Ministry
had been in contact with foreign correspondents already in Chengdu
to ensure their safety.

Sichuan Quake and Olympic Impact
--------------------------------

5. Asked about the impact of the earthquake on Olympic
preparations, Qin said that after the earthquake the Central and
Standing Committees of the Chinese Communist Party established a
taskforce to give the disaster relief the highest priority. He said
the government is pressing ahead with relief for the affected areas
and that the Chinese people are united in the efforts to overcome of
the losses due to the quake. In this spirit, he added, China will
do its utmost to overcome the damage and continue with the
preparations for the Beijing Olympics.

BEIJING 00001844 002.2 OF 002

6. Asked if there would be changes made to the Olympic torch relay
due to the disaster, Qin said that the Beijing Organizing Committee
for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) is assessing the situation and will
determine if changes are necessary.

Burma Cyclone Disaster Relief
-----------------------------

7. Qin said that China has expressed "its solicitude with Burma"
following the May 3 cyclone and is monitoring developments there.
He noted that China has sent two shipments of assistance and
provided money for disaster relief. Asked if the Sichuan earthquake
would impact China's assistance with disaster relief in Burma, Qin
said that China will continue to help "according to our
capabilities."

8. Asked for his views on actions by the Burmese government to
limit the arrival of foreign assistance into Burma, Qin said that
Burma has recently welcomed assistance from the international
community. He said that China provides assistance on the basis of
the principles of equality and mutual respect, respecting the will
of the receiving party and based on its "receiving capability."

Positive Progress in Six-Party Process
--------------------------------------

9. Qin confirmed reports that Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei would
meet with South Korean nuclear negotiator Kim Sook May 13 in
Beijing. He said that the Six-Party Talks have recently been making
progress on actions related to Phase II, including "some progress"
on denuclearization and the "implementation" of aid to the DPRK.
Qin said that "normalization of relations between the United States
and the DPRK has improved" and that the two sides recently had
contacts, which the Chinese side viewed positively.

10. In the Wu-Kim meeting, Qin said that the two sides would
exchange views on how to move forward. Noting that he was unaware
of agenda specifics, he ventured that the two sides would take
measures to increase mutual trust and discuss practical steps for
the implementation of Phase II in a comprehensive way. At the same
time, he added, Wu and Kim will discuss the next phase, and China is
ready to continue to play a constructive role to maintain
cooperation with all relevant parties.

Other
-----

11. According to Qin, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi will travel to
Bahrain May 21-22 to lead the Chinese delegation at the 3rd round of
the China-Arab Cooperation Forum.

RANDT

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