China Defends UN Veto on Syria

China is strongly defending its veto of a United Nations Security Council resolution on Syria. A Chinese spokesman says Beijing's decision is ultimately aimed at avoiding more casualties, even as the death toll in Syria continues to mount.

Most of the questions at Monday's Foreign Ministry briefing focused on China's decision, along with Russia, to veto a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning Syria's crackdown on anti-government protesters.

Spokesman Liu Weimin says China has been actively involved in U.N. efforts to address the Syrian crisis, but sees the latest resolution as divisive and ineffective.

Liu says China vetoed the resolution because it feels that supporters pushed through the vote while different sides were still, in his words, “seriously divided.” He adds that China thinks this kind of practice does not help maintain unity within the U.N. Security Council nor does it solve the Syrian issue.

He says China pays close attention to the situation in Syria and calls on all sides there to stop violence. He says Beijing's ultimate goal is to avoid casualties of innocent civilians and restore normal order in Syria.

The spokesman did not directly respond to questions for comment about the rising death toll in Syria, where the opposition accuses government troops of regular attacks in the Syrian city, Homs.

He also rejected Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's description of the Chinese and Russian vetoes as “a travesty.”

Liu says China does not accept the accusation. He added that China is not trying to favor any side in Syria's civil conflict. He says China sees itself as “a responsible major country,” and will continue to work with the international community for a positive outcome.

Tsinghua University international studies professor Sun Zhe says he thinks there is still still room to negotiate stronger international action on Syria.

Sun says, if the situation in Syria deteriorates even further, China and Russia could still change their positions. Therefore, he says he thinks Western countries that are calling for sanctions should continue their discussions.

The Tsinghua professor says he thinks China is following Russia's lead on the Syria issue, but he acknowledges that Beijing also has its own concerns.

Sun says he thinks Chinese leaders see the Syrian government's actions as “extremist,” but are afraid of Western intervention because, in his words, “they do not want to see another Libya or another Egypt.”

Russia's foreign minister is due in Syria on Tuesday. The Chinese spokesman said he had no information as to whether Chinese officials would be heading to Damascus anytime in the immediate future.