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China/North Korea

Published on April 17, 2013
Excerpts from the interview given by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister

of Foreign Affairs, to the French press

Beijing, April 12, 2013


THE MINISTER – This visit has clearly shown the importance we attach to Franco-Chinese relations, because, as you know, these are longstanding relations – it’s often recalled that France was the first country, the first major Western country, under General de Gaulle, to recognize the People’s Republic of China –, but also because, over the years, close cooperation has developed and because we share common approaches on many points.

We are two powers which are permanent members of the Security Council, committed to independence, development and peace. On certain issues we admittedly have analyses which may differ, but we agree on many points – particularly on the idea of a multipolar world, i.e. one not dominated by one or even two countries, but is balanced.

All this brings us closer together, and France traditionally attaches a great deal of importance to development and the emerging countries. All this has resulted in the Chinese agreeing to François Hollande’s state visit [25-26 April 2013] being the first from a Western head of state.


On our side, Franco-Chinese friendship is, for us, a priority of our foreign policy – because China is a huge country, because there’s a tradition of partnership, because we’re independent too, because we have many things to build together worldwide. The Chinese are very much involved, increasingly involved in the major international issues. They are now very much involved in Africa. We, the French, are going to put ourselves forward to host the great climate conference in 2015. And we need to work with the Chinese to prepare all that too.


This state visit has been prepared and there will be three main elements.

The first element centres on the strategic partnership, to ensure that the two nations consult each other on all the major issues, and this involves a whole series of exchanges. Moreover, on President François Hollande’s behalf I handed President Xi Jinping a letter which, among other things, invites him to visit France in the near future.

Secondly, bilateral relations. At economic level – this is very important – we currently have a trade imbalance with China which is too large. We must restore the balance top-down, so to speak. Hence what we have to do in terms of aeronautics, in terms of civilian nuclear energy, and also in new fields: sustainable development, the food industry, health and financial services; there are lots of things to do together. That’s the economic partnership.

And also bringing civil societies closer together. We have 35,000 Chinese students in France and 6,000 French students [in China]. There are also intellectual exchanges of all kinds, and tourist exchanges. And from this viewpoint, 2014 is going to be extremely eventful, because it’s the 50th anniversary of France’s recognition of China. On that occasion a lot of events are going to be organized, be they in China or France, to duly celebrate that great anniversary.

So it’s really a warm visit; you, who follow this, all know that the question of atmosphere is important. I myself, who am used to travelling to China, think the Chinese are doing everything to ensure that this state visit by the French President goes ahead as well as possible and that likewise, as a consequence, the visit I’m paying here over these two days goes ahead extremely well.

I already knew the State Councillor, because he was previously [Vice-] Foreign Minister. I’d met the current prime minister, but not the new president – which I did this afternoon – and then the new foreign minister, formerly ambassador to Japan, with whom I had a long meeting and dinner. That’s been the visit, in a nutshell.


Q. – Did you talk about North Korea?

THE MINISTER – Yes, the Foreign Minister and I talked about North Korea, and I asked him for his analysis, for his view of the reasons behind North Korea’s attitude and what China and the international community could do.

The feeling I had was that the Chinese want to reduce the tension as much as possible. It’s not easy, because it’s unclear why North Korea is adopting a very vindictive attitude. I also told him that we, the French, are prepared – although we’re very far away geographically, we’re still permanent members of the Security Council – to be involved in an initiative, particularly by China. Moreover, of course, China no doubt has a capacity for action that we don’t have.

But I also discussed this yesterday in London, where I was with my G8 colleagues yesterday. We talked about it to the Japanese, Americans, Russians and others who were present. One senses a genuine concern and at the same time a certain incomprehension, because it’s a provocation. But there are provocations that sometimes go wrong, and so the effort of each of us is to reduce the tension; I hope we manage to do that. (…)./.

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