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Statement by H.E. Ambassador ZHANG Yishan, Deputy Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations, at the Plenary of the 59th Session of the UN General Assembly, on Item 49: Oceans and the Law of the Sea

2004-11-16 20:00

New York, 16 November 2004

Mr. President,

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the entry into force of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. This "Charter of the Sea" which came into being after nearly 10 years of intense negotiations and consultations not only has codified all the available customary international law in respect of the law of the sea, but also further developed a new regime on the law of the sea, thus providing a basic legal framework for human activities on the oceans. The Chinese delegation wishes to pay high tribute to all those who have made a contribution in the negotiations on the Convention.

The sea is a fluid integral whole, and all its aspects are closely interlinked. To meet serious challenges now on ocean affairs requires joint efforts of all humanity, in particular cooperation among countries and relevant international organizations. We encourage more countries to accede to the Convention and welcome the establishment of an ocean and coastal areas network (OCAN). We hope that OCAN will further strengthen coordination among UN relevant agencies, between UN agencies and other relevant international organizations, and among various countries.

The Chinese government attaches great importance to the Convention and has actively promoted its implementation and the maintenance of international order on the oceans. The Chinese government is pleased to see that the international Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf and the International Seabed Authority set up under the Convention all made good progress in the settlement of maritime disputes, the delineation of the outer limits of the continental shelf as well as the exploration of resources and the preservation of environment in the international seabed areas. The Chinese government is playing and will continue to play its part in the work of the above agencies.

The Chinese delegation believes that the United Nations has the responsibility and ability to make an even greater contribution in the realm of the sea. Ocean affairs, including UNCLOS-related matters, concern the interests of all humanity and therefore should be discussed within the UN framework. The UN open-ended informal consultative process on oceans and the law of the sea (UNICPOLOS) was set up by GA resolution 54/33 and extended by resolution 57/141. Its purpose is to help the GA to review, in an effective and constructive manner, ocean affairs and the latest developments of the law of the sea. The setting up and extension of UNICPOLOS is a reflection of the universal concern over the issue of oceans by the international community. Over the past 5 years, the agenda of UNICPOLOS has covered nearly all areas of the law of the sea and the process has become an important forum where all countries, including non-parties to the Convention, discuss issues about oceans and the law of the sea and coordinate their positions. The Chinese government will, as always, continue to actively take part in and promote UNICPOLOS so that it can achieve more results.

The Chinese delegation has noted that in its resolution 57/141 the GA set up the GMA (Global Marine Assessment) in order to have global reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment, including socio-economic aspects, both current and foreseeable on the basis of existing regional assessments. It is therefore of great significance to the protection of the marine environment and promotion of sustainable development. The Chinese government attaches importance to the GMA and has sent experts to participate in its work.

The Chinese delegation further believes that the GMA should operate within the UN framework, with the UN playing a leading role, and it should take full account of the views of all UN members. The GMA should also make the best use of existing global and regional assessment mechanisms so as to avoid overlapping of work and waste of resources. Activities under the GMA should be consistent with the Convention and respect the sovereign rights and jurisdiction of coastal states over marine areas under their national jurisdiction as provided for under the Convention. The assessment areas should not be determined solely on the ecosystem approach. Full consideration should be given to the geographical areas covered by existing effective regional mechanisms. It is not appropriate now to prejudge how many assessment areas there should be. The establishment and operation of the GMA should proceed gradually. The present work should focus on two areas: first, to summarize and assess existing assessment mechanisms on marine environment; and second, greatly strengthen the capacity building of the developing countries.

China is one of the countries that have the largest number of fishermen and fishing fleets. Food security, poverty reduction and social stability all depend on the sustainable development of fisheries. The Chinese government is carrying out active cooperation through bilateral mechanisms, regional fishery management organizations and the FAO to promote the conservation, management and rational utilization of fishing resources.

The Chinese government has noted that the 1995 Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the UNCLOS relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks came into force on December 11, 2001. This Agreement has provided a basic framework for establishing regional fishery management mechanisms. The Chinese government has already signed the Agreement and is now actively participating in regional fishery cooperation in accordance with the principles of this Agreement. China has joined both ICCAT and IOTC and attended meetings of other relevant regional fishery organizations as an observer. China has also signed the IATTC Convention. Last July, China completed the domestic legal procedure for the ratification of the Convention on the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean and preparations for becoming party to the Convention are well under way. The Chinese government hopes that through various regional mechanisms resources can be well conserved and managed so as to achieve a sustainable development of fisheries.

The Chinese government attaches great importance to the protection and management of the biodiversity of the seabed in areas beyond national jurisdiction. We believe that at the present stage relevant research should be stepped up, taking full account of the existing international seabed regime. The Chinese delegation has noted that the International Seabed Authority has wide responsibilities for the protection and preservation of the marine environment of the seabed in areas beyond national jurisdiction. China encourages the Seabed Authority and other relevant international organizations to play an active role in this.

As a coastal developing country, the Chinese government attaches great importance to the peace and tranquility of the oceans, their sustainable development and the protection of the marine environment. The utilization and protection of the sea is an eternal theme of mankind. The Chinese government is ready to work with other countries and international organizations and play its part in advancing the cause of ocean affairs of mankind.

Thank you, Mr. President.


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