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Statement by Ambassador Wang Min at the 24th Meeting of the UNCLOS States Parties Under the Agenda Item "Report of the Secretary-General under Article 319 of UNCLOS"

2014/06/13

Mr. President,

The Chinese delegation thanks the Secretary-General for the rich and informative report he submitted under Article 319 of UNCLOS. The report reflects the progress in the work of the International Seabed Authority, the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and provides us with an update of the latest developments and challenges in the area of international maritime affairs and the law of the sea since the entry into force of UNCLOS.

Mr. President,

Today, 20 years after the entry into force of UNCLOS, three main features are evident in UNCLOS when seen from a historical perspective, namely, UNCLOS is an integral whole, it is balanced and it is evolving.

UNCLOS is an integral whole. The various parts of the Convention are closely related and therefore the Convention should be considered in its entirety. The State Parties are required to comprehensively fulfill their obligations under UNCLOS while exercising their rights provided for by it.

UNCLOS is balanced. It is a package agreement reached after nearly-a-decade-long negotiations. There is a balance of various interests. Hence, various interests should be considered in a balanced way when interpreting and applying the Convention.

UNCLOS is evolving. The Convention is a result of the development of the law of the sea, yet it in itself is constantly evolving. We should be guided by the basic principles of the Convention and respond to various existential problems and challenges to gradually promote the development of the law of the sea.

A correct understanding of and commitment to the above-mentioned features can help us correctly view and faithfully implement the Convention. 

Mr. President,

The Meeting of States Parties is not a venue to discuss bilateral issues. However, Vietnam and the Philippines just now made unwarranted accusations against China, leaving us with no choice but to respond to them to ensure a correct understanding of what happened.

First of all, on 2 May 2014, a Chinese company's HYSY 981 drilling rig started its drilling operation inside the contiguous zone of China's Xisha Islands for oil and gas exploration. Vietnam sent a large number of vessels, including armed ones, to the site, illegally and forcefully disrupting the Chinese operation for over 1400 times. What Vietnam did seriously infringed upon China's sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction, grossly violated the relevant international laws, including the UNCLOS, undermined the freedom and safety of navigation in the related waters, and damaged regional peace and stability. In mid-May, with the connivance of the Vietnamese government, thousands of Vietnamese outlaws committed sabotage against foreign companies, including Chinese ones, in Vietnam, leaving four Chinese nationals brutally killed and over 300 others injured, and causing heavy property losses. Till now, Vietnam still has not responded to our legitimate demand. Lies can never eclipse truth, nor can publicity stunt provide a legal cloak for illegal actions. What Vietnam needs to do now is to respect China's sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction, immediately stop all forms of disruptions of the Chinese operation and withdraw all vessels and personnel from the site, so as to ease the tension and restore tranquility on the sea as early as possible.

Second, Xisha Islands are an inherent part of China's territory, and are under effective jurisdiction of the Chinese government. There's no dispute about it. All the successive Vietnamese governments prior to 1974 had formally acknowledged Xisha islands as part of China's territory since ancient times. Now the Vietnamese government is going back on its word and making territorial claims over China's Xisha Islands. Our ancestors told us, "trustworthiness is of paramount importance in state-to-state relations". And in the international law, there's a basic principle called estoppel. Vietnam is reneging on its own promises, saying one thing today and denying it tomorrow. We would like to ask, how could Vietnam be trusted by the international community and how could Vietnam's international commitments be taken seriously in the future?

With regard to all the false accusations of the Philippines against China, we must point out that the root cause of the disputes between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea is the Philippines' illegal occupation of some islands and reefs of China's Nansha islands. The Philippines attempts to legalize its infringements and provocations by dragging China into arbitral proceedings. The Philippines is also trying to win international sympathy and support through deception. This is what the problem is in essence. Pursuant to the provisions of UNCLOS, the Chinese government made a declaration in 2006, excluding disputes over maritime delimitation and territorial sovereignty from compulsory dispute settlement procedures. As a sovereign state and a state party to UNCLOS, China has the right under international law to do this. China does not accept the arbitration initiated by the Philippines. This is fully based on the provisions of the international law. And China's position will not change.

As to Ren'ai Reef, what the Philippines should do is to honor its commitment and immediately tow away its illegally grounded vessel to obtain the trust of international community.

The Huangyan Island is an inherent part of China's territory. There's no dispute about this. China has undisputable sovereignty over the Chigua Reef, Huayang Reef and other islands and reefs. China's construction on the related islands and reefs and measures to preserve biological resources, including a moratorium on fishing, in the waters under China's jurisdiction fall well within China's sovereignty.

China appreciates the efforts made by the majority of ASEAN countries to preserve regional peace and stability. We will continue working with ASEAN countries to strictly act on the DOC, promote practical cooperation, enhance mutual trust and jointly uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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