|Statement by H.E. Amb. SHEN Guofang, Head of the Chinese Delegation, at the First Session of the Preparatory Committee for the Conference on the Illegal Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects|
|New York, 29 February 2000|
May I begin by congratulating you on your election to the chairmanship of the Preparatory Committee of the Conference on the Illegal Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects. I am confident that, with your rich experience and outstanding diplomatic skills, this session will be steered to a success. The Chinese Delegation will assure you of our full cooperation with you and other members of the Bureau so as to contribute to the success of the session.
The illicit trade in small arms and light weapons has in recent years stood out as a hot issue, arousing the grave concern of the international community. Such illicit trade aggravates the armed conflict and turmoil in some countries and regions, encourages terrorism and drug trafficking, adds complicated factors to some countries' post-conflict reconstruction and peace consolidation endeavour. China understands and sympathizes the concern of these countries and regions over the problem of illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. However, given its multi-faceted nature, this problem is highly-complicated, involving such factors as disarmament, security, social development, humanitarianism and domestic judicial system. Moreover, different countries and regions may have their own respective specific conditions. We are, therefore, of the view that, to eradicate effectively the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, the international community should, firstly, seek a comprehensive and integrated approach, addressing not only the "symptom" of this problem, but its "essence" as well. Secondly, solutions sought should be country/region-specific, tailored to its actual conditions. To copy mechanically the model of certain country or region will not help solve the problem. Thirdly, respect the sovereign right of each country. To curb the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons should not affect the legitimate rights of countries to own and transfer such weapons, as they represent an indispensable means to safeguard national defend and maintain social security order to those countries which are now not yet capable of manufacturing such weapons.
China is firmly opposed to the illicit trade in any weapons, including small arms and light weapons. It has adopted a responsible attitude towards the manufacture and transfer of small arms and promulgated strict laws and regulations coupled with administrative measures to this end. It has always actively supported the efforts by the international community to eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. China actively participated in the Group of Governmental Experts on Small Arms of 1998, making due contribution to its report. It was also actively involved in discussing the "Guidelines on conventional arms control/limitation and disarmament, with particular emphasis on consolidation of peace in the context of General Assembly resolution 51/45N"adopted by consensus by UNDC and tabled some useful proposals concerning the questions of collecting small arms in post-conflict regions. In addition, China has also actively participated in the work of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Elaboration of a Convention against Transnational Organized Crime in elaborating the Protocol to combat the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, their parts and Components and Ammunition.
Based on what I have outlined above, China supports the convening of an international conference on the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in all its aspects in 2001, and will actively participate in its preparatory process. As "a good beginning is half done", China therefore sincerely hopes that this preparatory meeting will be a success so as to lay a solid foundation for the smooth convocation of the subsequent preparatory meetings and the Conference in 2001.
I now wish to turn to outline China's preliminary views on some issues pertaining to the Conference and its preparatory process.
I. The scope and objective of the Conference. We hold that the Conference and its preparatory Committee should conduct their work in strict accordance with the mandate as set out by the report of the Group of Governmental Experts on Small Arms as endorsed by GA resolution 54/54V, the overall objective of the Conference should be to eradicate the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. In this context, the scope of the Conference should be confined to the question of illicit trade and its closely-related issues. While recognizing that proper regulation of the legal trade in small arms and light weapons will help prevent the legally-traded weapons from flowing to the illegal channel, the question of legal trade in small arms and light weapons per se should nevertheless not become the subject matter for consideration by the Conference. Practical disarmament measures, such as the collection and destruction of surplus small arms should be limited to affected post-conflict areas with excessive accumulation of such weapons. To expand the scope of the Conference to legal arms trade will not only go beyond the mandate of relevant GA resolutions, but also do harm to the sovereign right of self-defense of developing countries as provided for in the Charter of the United Nations. To ensure the attainment of the above objective, China supports the adoption by consensus of the final outcome of the Conference, especially a program of action on curbing the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in a bid to put this problem behind us at an early date.
II. The preparatory process of the Conference. The success of the Conference hinges greatly on the qualification of its preparatory process. China maintains that the work of the Preparatory Committee should be conducted under the Chairman's leadership and with the wide participation by its members in an opened and transparent manner. In the meantime, given the universality and authority of the Preparatory Committee, all preparatory work should be conducted within this framework so as to ensure the smooth convocation of the Conference in 2001 and its preparatory process.
III. The rules of the procedure of the Conference. This, we believe, not only serves as a basis for the smooth convocation of the Conference, but also represents one of the prerequisites for its success. It is therefore one of the PrepCom's important tasks to come up with a set of good rules of procedure. China sincerely hopes that all parties concerned will channel their efforts towards a consensus on all issues pertaining to the Conference in the spirit of seeking truth from facts and seeking common grounds while reserving differences. This will not only help ensure the widest possible participation in and support of the Conference in 2001, but also reflect the will and determination of the international community to put behind us the problem of illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.
In the next few days, we'll also work to decide on the dates and venues of the Conference in 2001 and of the subsequent sessions of its PrepCom. These are important issues, bearing on the smooth convocation of the Conference. The Chinese Delegation will actively participate in the discussion while standing ready to hear the views of other delegations. We'll join the efforts of all other delegations and make our utmost contribution to help promoting the successful convocation of the Conference.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.