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Remarks by Ambassador Zhang Jun at Security Council Open VTC on Mine Action

2021-04-08 01:05

Mr. President,

At the outset, I wish to extend warm congratulations to you on the appointment as Foreign Minister of Vietnam and welcome you to the meeting. I also appreciate the work done by Vietnam as President of the Council. China thanks Secretary-General Guterres for his briefing. I have also listened to the statements by Ms. Michelle Yeoh, Ambassador Toscano and Ms. Nguyen Thi Dieu Linh.

At present, the international security landscape is complex and grim, evidenced by intensifying geopolitical competition among major powers, incessant outbreaks of regional conflicts and hotspot issues, and the spread of terrorism. The humanitarian consequences of the indiscriminate use of conventional weapons are more salient than before. Among them, landmines, ERWs and IEDs threaten the safety and security of personnel, hinder humanitarian development activities, disrupt the normal life of local communities, and create obstacles to achieving lasting peace and development in conflict areas.

For many years, the international community has given importance to the issue of arms control for conventional weapons, which is regarded as disarmament that saves lives by Secretary-General Guterres in his agenda for disarmament. The international community has taken sustained action on the landmine dossier and achieved good results. In some countries and regions where landmine contamination was prevalent, the situation has been alleviated. That said, the number of landmine casualties remain high. In recent two years, tens of thousands of people have been killed or maimed. As we speak, there are still nearly 30 countries whose population still face landmine risks, especially Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali, and Yemen. In South Sudan, Mali, Western Sahara and other peacekeeping mission areas, UN peacekeepers and humanitarian workers are also exposed to safety and security risks of explosives, such as landmines. Therefore, the international community should continue to step up its efforts. To this end, I would like to emphasize the following:

First, we should make utmost efforts to ensure the safety of civilians, which is the priority of international mine action. The international community should be proactive in helping countries concerned to raise landmine awareness, upgrade demining technology, control explosive supply chain, and strengthen integrated mine clearance capacity, so as to holistically reduce the safety risks of landmines to the civilian population. The parties concerned must do their level best to keep a record of the mines laid, and at the end of hostilities, remove them promptly or take other measures to protect civilians from harm. At the same time, it is necessary to strengthen international cooperation and assistance and actively help landmine-affected countries build up their own capacity to ensure sustained mine action. Countries that have left ERWs in other countries should shoulder their due historical responsibility and provide necessary support for clearance and destruction.

China is actively engaged in international humanitarian demining assistance and cooperation. The Chinese government has, through donations, equipment provisions, training programs and field guidance, provided humanitarian demining assistance totaling over 100 million RMB yuan to more than 40 countries. China has also trained more than 1,000 professional demining technicians. In September 2015, President Xi Jinping announced at the UN Peacekeeping Summit that China would undertake ten demining assistance projects in the next five years. Since then, China has carried out 24 demining assistance projects, with a total exceeding 55 million RMB yuan, meeting and surpassing the targets ahead of schedule. Last year, China assisted Cambodia and Laos with 9.5 million RMB yuan worth of mine detection and clearance equipment and humanitarian supplies.

Second, the UN must play an active role. Secretary-General Guterres once said that peace without mine action is incomplete peace. Mine action has become an important part of UN peace operations. Member states and the Secretariat should upgrade demining equipment used in PKOs, provide mine clearance training and improve the capacity of peacekeeping operations to help host countries in mine action. This will also contribute to the reduction of landmine threat to peacekeepers and humanitarian workers.

We should attach great importance to the disposal of IEDs. China has sent experts to participate in the review and revision of the international mine action standards. As the Co-Chair of the UN Working Group on the IED disposal standards, China worked along with experts from other countries to study and formulate the UN IED disposal standards. We hope that this would provide useful reference information to countries around the world. China accords attention to addressing the humanitarian concerns resulting from the indiscriminate use of IEDs by non-state actors. China supports the formulation of sensible and viable solutions under the framework of the CCW.

We should also give full play to the role of peacekeeping operations in mine clearance. Chinese peacekeepers have been present in the mission area in Lebanon since 2006. To date, they have found and removed more than 10,000 landmines and explosives. They are known for their exceptional performance of demining operations with zero casualty, zero accident, fastest speed and the largest quantity of mines and explosives cleared. We also set store by the safety and security of peacekeepers and provided demining and security training to peacekeepers from multiple countries.

Third, we should adhere to the balanced approach principle. It is necessary to properly address the humanitarian concerns and give consideration to the legitimate military security needs of various countries on the basis of the respective security environment and the differences in military strength. China is a state party to the amended Landmine Protocol of the CCW. China strictly abides by the provisions pertaining to the restrictions on the production and use of landmines and submits its national compliance report to the Conference of States Parties to the Protocol every year. China subscribes to the purposes of the Ottawa Convention and supports the ultimate goal of comprehensive landmine ban. China maintains good communication and cooperation with the States Parties to the Convention.

As a former victim, China empathizes with the humanitarian concerns caused by landmines, ERWs and IEDs. We will continue to rigorously fulfill relevant international obligations and provide assistance where we can to the developing countries and people who have been affected. We stand ready to work with the international community and play a constructive role in addressing the security and humanitarian risks caused by the indiscriminate use of conventional weapons, including landmines.

I thank you, Mr. President.

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