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Statement by Ambassador WU Haitao at the Plenary of the 71st General Assembly under the Agenda Item 73: Oceans and the Law of the Sea

2016/12/07

Mr. President,

The past year witnessed remarkable achievements in the work of the three institutions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) , namely the International Seabed Authority (ISA), the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) and the International Tribunal for Law of the Sea (ITLOS), on which I wish to express my congratulations. I also wish to thank Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (DOALOS), Office of Legal Affairs for its diligent work as the Secretariat that has ensured the smooth conduct of the related work. The General Assembly (GA) resolutions on “Oceans and the law of the sea” and on “Sustainable fisheries” take stock of the overall developments of international oceans and the law of the sea affairs over the previous year, and the establishment of “World Tuna Day” resolution is of great significance in that it demonstrates our commitment to the protection of marine biological resources. The Chinese delegation has taken an active and constructive part in the consultations on the above mentioned resolutions. Here, I would like to express my appreciation to the facilitators for their effort and contribution.

Mr. President,

While much new progress has been made in the area of oceans and the law of the sea, there have also emerged many new issues and new challenges. I wish to take this opportunity to share China’s position and ideas in this connection.

First, we should strengthen international cooperation to realize the sustainable development of the oceans and seas. The oceans and seas are the home of the entire mankind and a precious space for sustainable development. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development sets a higher bar for us in the protection and sustainable use of the oceans and seas. We must foster the awareness of a community of shared future for mankind, engage in close cooperation, and join hands in tackling various challenges related to the oceans and seas. China has put forward the initiatives of developing a “blue economy” and building “the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road”, which we believe will greatly promote international cooperation on maritime affairs. China hopes the international community can work together to promote the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and realizing sustainable marine development.

Secondly, we must promote the rule of law on the oceans and seas, and establish and maintain a fair and reasonable maritime order. UNCLOS has provided a comprehensive legal framework and the foundation for the maritime activities of its states parties. It has set down balanced provisions regarding the rights and obligations of states parties in the peaceful use and conservation of the oceans and seas. All parties must uphold the purposes and principles of the Convention, interpret and apply the Convention and its dispute settlement mechanism with goodwill and in an accurate and comprehensive manner, and avoid abusing the provisions of the Convention. In this respect, the ITLOS can play a more positive role. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the ITLOS and China wishes to congratulate the ITLOS on its achievements over the past 20 years. We hope that the ITLOS will continue to make efforts to effectively safeguard the authority and integrity of the Convention. China appreciates the positive contribution made by the CLCS to the maintenance of the balance between the legitimate rights and interests of coastal states on the one hand and the overall interest of the international community on the other, and to the promotion of the stability of the international maritime order. We support the Commission in continuing to fulfill its responsibilities in strict compliance with the Convention and its own rules of procedure.

Thirdly, we must fully coordinate positions and steadily advance the international maritime governance. Right now, the attention of the international community is focused on the negotiations on an international agreement on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction (BBNJ). Parties should engage in thorough exchanges and consultations during the negotiations, fully consider the legitimate need of countries, developing countries in particular, to use marine biological resources, and advance the negotiating process steadily. It is undesirable to seek a result in haste. The new agreement must not compromise the rights of navigation, scientific research, fishing and mining that countries enjoy under the Convention. The priority of the work of the ISA is formulating regulations governing the exploitation of seabed resources. As such regulations bear in the most direct way on the exploitation of the international seabed mineral resources, the Authority needs to hear the views and ideas from all sides, take a prudent approach in its consideration, and conduct its work in a progressive manner and on a sound scientific and factual basis.

The Chinese government attaches great importance to and actively supports international endeavors in the area of oceans and the law of the sea, and has made donations within the limit of its capability to the ISA and the CLCS in support of their work. China is in favor of the provisions in this year’s resolution on “Oceans and the law of the sea” on including the Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) and middle-income countries in special difficulties in the scope of capacity building assistance and technical assistance. We believe that this is conducive to greater participation of developing countries in the oceans and the law of the sea affairs and helpful to the common development of all countries.

Mr. President,

China highly values the peace and stability in the South China Sea. We have always taken a constructive and responsible approach in addressing the issue of the South China Sea. Currently, thanks to the joint effort of China and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries, the situation in the South China Sea is developing in a positive direction and brought back to the right track of dialogues and consultations. We hope that states concerned will work with China to seek the solution to the dispute through negotiations and consultations in a joint effort to maintain the peace and stability in the South China Sea.

The so-called “Arbitration on the South China Sea” is null and void with no binding power whatsoever. China does not accept it, has not participated in it, and does not recognize it. This is to uphold the international rule of law. The page has been turned on this so-called “arbitration”.

Mr. President,

China will as always act as a defender of the international maritime rule of law, a builder of a harmonious maritime order and a promoter of the sustainable marine development. We look forward to continuing to strengthen cooperation with all countries in order to further promote the protection and sustainable use of the oceans and seas.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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