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Statement by Mr. LI Yongsheng At the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly On Agenda Item 79 Oceans and the law of the sea

2015/12/08

Mr. President,

The ocean is the cradle of human civilization. It is mankind’s common home and a valuable space for sustainable development. Promoting sustainable marine development represents the shared aspiration of the people all over the world. It also corresponds with the propositions of the Chinese government for “a harmonious world” and “harmonious oceans and seas”. China is very pleased to see that the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and seas have been incorporated as a significant goal in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. To achieve this goal, countries need to build up political will and embrace the idea of “community of common destiny” in dealing with ocean affairs, so as to jointly respond to challenges and expand pragmatic cooperation with a view to realizing common development.

Over the past year, we’ve witnessed achievements, challenges and progress in the field of oceans and the law of the sea. China has actively participated in the consultations on the texts of the resolutions on oceans and the law of the sea and on sustainable fisheries. Here I wish to thank Ambassador Eden Charles of Trinidad and Tobago and Ms. Alice Revell of New Zealand for their contributions as facilitators of the consultations. My thanks also go to the Division for Ocean Affairs and Law of the Sea (DOALOS) for the work they have done.

Mr. President,

I would like to take this opportunity to share China’s position and ideas on relevant aspects concerning oceans and the Law of the Sea.

1. The Chinese delegation compliments the International Seabed Authority (ISBA) for its achievements over the past year. Last July, the ISBA considered and approved the procedures and criteria for extension of contracts for exploration, and decided to set as a priority for the Legal and Technical Commission the acceleration of the formulation of draft regulations for exploitation. It also decided to launch the periodic review of the international regime governing the seabed. Such work is of great significance for the improvement of the international seabed regime. The Chinese government attaches great importance to and has been proactively involved in international seabed affairs. We will diligently fulfill our relevant obligations to ensure comprehensive and faithful implementation of the signed contracts for exploration in the Area. As a developing country, China pays great attention to the effective and comprehensive participation of developing countries in international seabed affairs and has provided help to the best of its ability. This year, China once again donated 20,000 US dollars to the Voluntary Trust Fund of the ISBA to finance the participation of members from developing countries in meetings of the Legal and Technical Commission and the Finance Committee of the Authority.

2. The Chinese delegation has taken note of the increasingly important role of the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea in such areas as the peaceful settlement of maritime disputes and the maintenance of international maritime order. China appreciates the Tribunal's contribution in promoting capacity building of the developing countries and training the latter’s personnel in the field of the Law of the Sea. In April this year, a decision was made with the advisory competence of the full bench of the Tribunal with regard to case No. 21, which gave rise to some concerns on our part. Many countries, including China, believe that there were not sufficient legal bases for the exercise by the Tribunal of advisory competence of the full bench. China hopes that, in the future, the Tribunal will give full consideration to the concerns of all sides and use caution in its advisory competence.

3. The Chinese government highly appreciates the hard work of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf and its positive contribution to a balanced handling of the legitimate rights and interests of the coastal states and the overall interest of the international community. We support the Commission in continuing to fulfill its mandate strictly in accordance with the Convention and its own rules of procedure, particularly the rule that the Commission shall not consider a submission in cases where a land or maritime dispute exists between the countries concerned. China has taken note of the increasingly heavy workload of the Commission, and supports the continued efforts to improve the working conditions of the Commission and to address the issue of providing medical insurance for members of the Commission. China has in the past made multiple donations to the voluntary trust fund of the Commission to help members from the developing countries to attend the Commission’s sessions. This year, we have donated another 20,000 US dollars to the voluntary fund.

4. The international community attaches great importance to the preservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ). In accordance with GA resolution 69/292, the preparatory committee for negotiating an international agreement on BBNJ will hold its first meeting next March to launch the relevant negotiation process. China believes that formulating an international agreement on BBNJ is currently the most important legislative process in the field of the law of the sea. The negotiations should proceed in an orderly and progressive manner, the need of all countries, particularly that of the developing countries, for reasonable use of marine biological resources should be fully accommodated, and the existing legal regimes and frameworks should not be jeopardized. The Chinese delegation is ready to take an active part in the work of the PrepCom and the negotiation process that follows.

Mr. President,

Sustainable development of the oceans and seas cannot be achieved without a just international maritime order. All countries should comply with international law in exercising their rights, fulfill their obligations in good faith, and ensure the equal and uniform application of international law. All countries and international judicial organs should respect the legitimate right of countries to independently choose the means of peaceful settlement of disputes. No one should exceed its authority in interpreting or applying rules of international law, still less to disregard objectivity and justice and use the rule of law as a pretext to violate the rights and interests of other countries. The formulation, interpretation and application of international law should serve to promote peace, development and cooperation. For the so-called “arbitration” which one country unilaterally initiated and obstinately pushed forward by abusing the international law and without consent of the other country, that other country surely enjoys the right to neither accept nor participate in that “arbitration”. Such so-called “arbitration” will and shall not have any effect.

China has always advocated international cooperation characterized by mutual trust, mutual benefit, and collaboration on equal footing. We look forward to further strengthening cooperation with other countries to explore together ways to tackle the various challenges in the area of the oceans and seas and to jointly build a harmonious world with harmonious oceans and seas that enjoys lasting peace and common prosperity.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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