|Statement by H.E. Ambassador LIU Zhenmin, Deputy Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations, at the plenary meeting of the 62nd Session of the UN General Assembly, on Item 77 "Oceans and the Law of the Sea"|
|(New York, 10 December 2007)|
The Chinese delegation attaches great importance to the discussion by the GA of the item of oceans and the law of the sea. Over the past year, we have witnessed the achievements, challenges and developments in the field of the oceans and the law of the sea. The Chinese delegation wishes to share with all of you its views and visions on issues relating oceans and the law of the sea.
Mankind depends on oceans for survival and development, and we should take good care of this common home of ours. With the rapid development of science and technology, people's knowledge about the oceans and capacity for their utilization and protection are constantly increasing. In the face of the challenges of our times, it is imperative for all countries to work together to maintain a harmonious order for oceans.
Maintaining a harmonious order for oceans presupposes a harmonious relationship between mankind and oceans in order for the oceans to always benefit mankind and mankind to engage in sustained conservation with regard to oceans.
Maintaining a harmonious order for oceans calls for respect for the sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction of all coastal states, as well as respect for the rights and freedom of all states, coastal states and landlocked states alike, in the peaceful utilization of oceans. It also calls for special attention and assistance to the less developed coastal states, landlocked states and geographically disadvantaged states so that they could better enjoy the benefits of the oceans and better respond to the challenges and disasters from the oceans. In dealing with marine disputes, countries should resort to peaceful means and cooperation with a view to maintaining marine peace and tranquility.
In maintaining a harmonious order for oceans, a rational differentiation should be made between rights and interests in areas of national jurisdiction and those in areas beyond national jurisdiction so that coastal states can, on the one hand, fully exercise their sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the continental shelf naturally extending from their territories, and on the other, avoid encroachment on international seabed areas, which are the common heritage of mankind, as a result of the extension of their continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles.
In maintaining a harmonious order for oceans, a balance should be achieved between the sound protection and rational utilization of the oceans without stressing one at the expense of the other. The international community should strengthen cooperation and integrated coordination and push for progress of the relevant research so as to provide solid advice for decision-making.
The 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea should remain the legal basis and framework for our efforts to maintain a harmonious order for oceans. With 155 states parties and the list still growing, the Convention has fully demonstrated its universality and vitality. As a product of extensive negotiations by the international community, the Convention has accommodated various interests in a balanced manner. It remains the important basis for us to resolve new issues and address new challenges in marine affairs.
The adoption of relevant resolutions by the GA at the current session is of important significance to the maintenance of a harmonious order for oceans. After full consultations, two draft resolutions have been tabled for adoption, thanks to the constructive and cooperative spirit and the hard work on the part of numerous delegations. Here, I'd like to thank Ambassador Henrique Rodrigues Valle Junior of Brazil and Ms. Holly Koehler of the US for all the work they have put into these drafts as coordinators. Our thanks also go to the staff of DOALOS for the valuable support they have provided.
At present, the Commission on the Limits of Continental Shelf is faced with considerable difficulties and daunting challenges, with the emerging of many problems that were not foreseen when the Convention was formulated. It is foreseeable that the Commission will need a considerable long period of time to complete its review of all the submissions by countries. Like other developing counties, China is currently engaged in research activities on the delimitation of the outer limits of its continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles.
My delegation believes that the delimitation of the outer limits of its continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles is the right of a coastal state under international law; it is also related to the integrated interests of the international seabed areas. In addressing this issue, it is imperative to ensure that the Commission take a serious, scientific and precise approach to its work, and fully and faithfully fulfill its mandate in accordance with the Convention. The Commission should not be asked to simply speed up its work regardless of other factors, much less to do so at the expense of the above approach it should adopt in its work.
Practice shows that the inherent complexity and difficulty of the work of delimitation were hard to imagine at the time when the Convention was drafted. Therefore, it's unrealistic to request states parties to file their submissions within the time limit defined by the Convention and the resolution of the meeting of the states parities; and the developing countries face even greater difficulties in this regard. At the same time, given the fact that the Commission will need a long time for its review work, it is obvious that the artificially set deadline of May 2009 is no longer meaningful.
We suggest that the meeting of states parties to the Convention to be held next year explore various ways and means, including postponing the deadline for submissions, to ensure that the Commission will carry out its work on the delimitation of the outer limits of continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles in an orderly fashion, and that its scientific work will stand the test of time.
In recent years, the International seabed Authority has focused its work on the formulation of regulations on the prospecting and exploration for cobalt-rich nodules and polymetallic sulphides. The regulations on seabed prospecting and exploration should give expression to the principle of common heritage of mankind while taking into account such questions as investment interests of all countries, especially potential contractors. Prospecting and exploration are highly specialized and technically demanding work with huge investment risks. In addition, the international community pays particular attention to environmental protection and the conservation of the fragile ecosystems. Therefore, the formulation of the regulations is both a process for increasing mankind's knowledge about these two resources and one for the reconciliation of the interests of countries. The work on the regulations will come to natural fruition when we have sufficient knowledge of the properties of these resources and when the relationships of different concerns among countries are properly worked out. At present, compared with polymatallic sulphides about which mankind has very limited knowledge, people know relatively more about cobalt-rich nodules. This explains why the formulation of regulations on cobalt-rich nodules has encountered fewer difficulties, which gives us hope for early progress. We expect further efforts by the International Seabed Authority in this respect.
As an important part of the mechanism established by the Convention for dispute settlement, the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea plays an important role in the peaceful settlement of marine disputes and the maintenance of international marine order and stability. The success of the Tribunal in dealing with two cases of rapid release of vessels and crews this year speaks to the important status it enjoys and the contribution it has made to international marine affairs.
China has all along supported the work of the Tribunal. In August this year, it is our regret that Judge Xu Guangjian from China resigned his post from the Tribunal due to poor health. The Chinese Government has nominated Dr. Gao Zhiguo as a candidate for the election to fill the vacancy to be held at the meeting of states parties to the Convention on 30 January, 2008. Dr. Gao fully meets the qualifications of candidates set out in article 2 of the Statute of the Tribunal. I believe that, if elected, he will contribute significantly to the work of the Tribunal. We expect for the valuable support of all states parties.
The theme of this year's Informal Consultative Process is "protection of marine genetic resources". The discussions proved to be very useful. In the research and utilization of marine genetic resources, there still exist a lot of complex legal and political issues; and work in this area also involves broader and more important areas such as the protection and utilization of biodiversity. All these issues merit serious study by the international community. My delegation hopes that the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Protection and Sustainable Use of Marine Biodiversity in Areas beyond National Jurisdiction will achieve positive results at its 2nd session.
A major goal that the Convention seeks to achieve is to facilitate navigation at sea. The regimes established by the Convention for governing the transit and passage through straights used for international navigation and the passage through sea lanes of archipelagos are important for ensuring the freedom of navigation at sea and should be complied with by all states. We hope that these regimes of the Convention will be preserved. Laws and regulations enacted by any coastal state should be in line with the Convention and the relevant rules of international law and should not undermine the principle of freedom of navigation.
The Chinese Government has always attached great importance to and has actively addressed the question of pollution from vessels, including green house gas emission from vessels. We believe that in addressing the problem of greenhouse gas emission from vessels, the key lies in upholding the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" set out in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and faithfully implementing the relevant provisions of the Kyoto Protocol. Such a principle should be brought out both in the relevant discussions in IMO and in the amendment of relevant treaties. China notes and supports the positive role played by the IMO in this respect. We are willing to enhance exchanges with other countries in dealing with pollution from vessels as part of our efforts to further promote pragmatic cooperation in aspects of finance, transfer of technologies and capacity-building.
China has a population that accounts for one fifths of the world's total. The Chinese people have realized that if the oceans are expected to bring benefit to mankind for the present and future generations, we must work ceaselessly to conserve the oceans. The Chinese Government attaches great importance to marine affairs. It is committed to the sound protection and rational use of the oceans and to the proper settlement of the question of maritime delineation with neighboring countries and other maritime disputes through peaceful negotiations. We are willing to take part in international cooperation and work with other countries of the world in a joint effort to care for the oceans-our common home.
The two draft resolutions to be adopted by the GA represent the international community's response to the various problems and challenges in the field of marine affairs. Together with all other countries, China will make its contribution to the maintenance of a harmonious order for oceans.
Thank you, Mr. President.