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The Statement by Ambassador Geng Shuang at the 31st Meeting of States Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea

2021-06-23 13:33

Mr President,

The Chinese delegation thanks the Secretary-General for his report under Article 319 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and commends the Secretariat for the efforts over the past year to overcome difficulties brought about by the pandemic, to advance the work in various areas and mechanisms under the framework of UNCLOS in an orderly manner.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the restoration of the lawful seat of the People's Republic of China in the United nations. The first important international legislative process that China participated in, after her return to the UN was the third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea. Throughout the negotiation process, China actively practiced multilateralism, promoted the spirit of international rule of law, and worked with other developing countries to promote the establishment of important principles and regimes of the law of the sea, such as the common heritage of mankind, thus making an important contribution to the final adoption of UNCLOS. Over the years, China has actively participated in a work of the three major bodies established under the convention, supported developing countries in strengthening capacity building, resolutely safeguarded the integrity and sanctity of UNCLOS, and played an active role in promoting the construction of modern maritime order.

Mr President,

Nowadays, global ocean governance is faced with a series of new problems and challenges. As pointed out by the Chinese President Xi Jinping, the problems facing the world are intricate and complex, and the way out of them is through upholding multilateralism and building a community with a shared future for mankind. This argument is also applicable in the maritime field.

We must steadfastly pursue to true multilateralism. The third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea held from 1973 to 1982 was a successful practice of multilateralism, which culminated in the important achievement of concluding UNCLOS. At present, the legislative process of negotiating and formulating international agreements on maritime biodiversity and exploitation regulations on mineral resources in the Area is advancing steadily. China resolutely supports and fully participates in the relevant maritime mechanisms and processes and stands ready to work with all parties to uphold equal consultation, openness, inclusiveness, fairness and justice and continuously strengthen and improve global ocean governance mechanisms.

We must effectively promote the sustainable development of the oceans. The ocean is the cradle of mankind and the treasure house of resources. The international community should work together to implement the UN Sustainable Development Goal 14 and promote the protection and sustainable use of the oceans. China attaches great importance to the construction of marine ecological civilization, implements the concept of green development in various maritime activities, such as fisheries, shipping, scientific research and mining, and always advocates the balanced development of protection and utilization, and the harmonious coexistence of mankind and oceans. This year marks the first year of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. China hosted a relevant international seminar at the beginning of this month. We are ready to strengthen cooperation with all parties, learn from each other and jointly explore scientific solutions for sustainable ocean development.

We must vigorously promote blue cooperation. The maritime economy containing endless opportunities, broad prospects is the new growth point and driver for the world economy. China has already incorporated the “active development of the blue partnership” into the 14th Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development, and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035. We’re ready to continue, under the Belt and Road framework and in a spirit of extensive consultation joint contribution and shared benefits, to deepen maritime connectivity and programmatic cooperation with all parties, promote economic, trade, cultural and scientific exchanges with the ocean as a carrier and link and share the fruits of ocean economy with people of all countries.

We must uphold the principles of international maritime rule of law. A complete, accurate, and good-faith interpretation and application of UNCLOS is a prerequisite for maintaining its authority and effectiveness. For matters not regulated by UNCLOS, they should continue to be governed by the rules and principles of general international law. All countries should firmly defend the international maritime order based on international law, properly resolved maritime disputes through negotiations and consultations in good faith. International judicial institutions should respect the principle of State consent, exercise jurisdiction strictly in accordance with the authorization of the States concerned, correctly interpret and apply UNCLOS and earnestly play the role in resolving conflicts and disputes.

Mr President,

All countries have the obligation to abide by the provisions of UNCLOS on the protection and preservation of the maritime environment and jointly take care of the home that mankind depends on for survival. Recently, the Japanese government unilaterally decided to dispose of the contaminated water from Fukushima nuclear power plant accident by ocean discharge. China expresses her grave concern to this decision.

The amount of nuclear contaminated water Japan intends to discharge, its duration, the sea area covered, and its potential risks are all unprecedented. Studies have shown that once the Fukushima nuclear-contaminated water is released into the sea, it will quickly spread to most of the Pacific Ocean, and further to the global waters. The nuclear contaminated water that Japan plans to discharge contains a lot of radioactive substances which will have severe impacts on the maritime environment, ecosystems and human health.

According to the stipulations of UNCLOS, when dealing with nuclear contaminated water, Japan should take all measures necessary to ensure that activities under its jurisdiction or control will not cause damage by pollution to other States and their environment, and to ensure that pollution arising from aforementioned activities will not spread beyond the areas where it exercises sovereign rights. According to international law, including UNCLOS, Japan must also fulfill various obligations, such as timely notification, full consultation, environmental impact assessment and monitoring, international cooperation and information exchange.

Japan is fully aware that the discharge of nuclear contaminated water may cause severe harm to the global marine environment. It is fully aware of its international obligations under UNCLOS and other international treaties. It is also fully conscious of various doubts and opposition at home and abroad. However, before exhausting safe disposal means, disclosing all relevant information, fully consulting with neighboring countries and other stakeholders or coming up with verification arrangement that can be monitored, Japan decided unilaterally to dump the nuclear contaminated water into the sea out of pure economic considerations. This approach is opaque, irresponsible and unfriendly. It is malicious intented, knowingly offensive and self-interested, and it runs counter to the consensus and momentum of the international community to protect and sustainably use the oceans.

China strongly urges Japan to earnestly fulfill its international obligations and handle the Fukushima nuclear contaminated water issue prudently in an open and transparent manner. Without fully negotiating and reaching a consensus with all stakeholders and relevant international institutions, no nuclear-contaminated water can be discharged into the ocean wantonly. Japan should face up to and fulfill its responsibilities to all mankind, and the future generations by avoiding irreversible damage to human health and global marine ecology.

Mr President,

the ocean is the common wealth and symbiosis home of mankind. It is closely intertwined with the sustainable development and future destiny of humankind. Let's work hand in hand to continue to steadfastly practice multilateralism, jointly protect and utilize the ocean, advance and improve ocean governance and move forward towards the goal of building a maritime community with a shared future.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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