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Transatlantic, meet Pacific: China's bold stance at Munich security conference

In front of 300 diplomats, including senior US officials, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said the US was violating international law by a proposed arms sale to Taiwan, and defended Chinese TV and radio as more reliable than Western media.

By Staff writer / February 5, 2010

China's Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi is welcomed by Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the Conference on Security Friday before the start of the 46th Conference on Security Policy in Munich. Speaking with uncharacteristic bluntness, Mr. Yang accused the US of violating international law with its proposed arms sale to Taiwan.

Michaela Rehle / Reuters

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Munich, Germany

Today Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi, speaking with unusual bluntness in front of 300 leading diplomats – including senior US officials – here in Munich publicly stated that China is getting stronger on the international stage. He said the US was violating international law by a proposed arms sale to Taiwan, offered that China’s TV and radio news service contains “more solid” and reliable news than Western media, and that China is not ready to address sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program, stating instead that the Islamic Republic “has not totally closed the door on the IAEA.”

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Transatlantic – meet the Pacific.

Foreign Minister Yang is the first Chinese official to speak at the annual Munich Security Conference, the premier transatlantic security meeting, in its 46 year history. He turned heads in the group at a time when the People’s Republic and the US have come to loggerheads over Taiwan arms sales, Internet freedom, currency rates, and climate policy coming out of the Copenhagen meeting in December.

“I haven’t heard a high-ranking Chinese official say, ‘Yes, we are strong,’ in a public setting before,” said a senior German diplomat. “It was a very assertive message, different, and it means we will soon see a different Chinese policy.”

Mr. Yang, a former ambassador to the US and highly respected, gave a somewhat conventional speech – though in a strong voice. He affirmed that China is both a developed and a developing country, that it seeks “win-win solutions,” and that it is preparing for greater “shared responsibilities” on the world stage – and that it played a transformative role in helping avert a global financial crisis in the past year.

Yet during three probing follow-up questions, Yang mopped his brow repeatedly in answering on Taiwan, cyberspace, and China’s position on Iran’s nuclear program, which he earlier admitted was “at a crucial stage.”

“Does China feel stronger? Yes,” he said as questions opened.

Regarding a proposed US $6.4 billion package of arms for Taiwan introduced in recent weeks by the Obama administration, and which China has for the first time threatened retaliatory sanctions on US firms that supply arms – Yang called it a “violation of the code of conduct among nations” by the US, said China has “every reason to feel indignant about this thing,” and added that Beijing has a “sovereign right to do what is necessary” in response.

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