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Wang Yi Attends “UNCLOS at 40: Retrospect and Prospect”

2022-09-02 22:40

On September 1, 2022, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi attended the opening ceremony of “UNCLOS at 40: Retrospect and Prospect”, an international conference marking the 40th anniversary of the opening for the signature of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Wang Yi said, adopted in 1982, UNCLOS opened a new chapter of global maritime governance, and has greatly helped humanity better understand, protect and utilize the sea. A review of its conclusion process, purposes and application gives us three main inspirations in addressing today’s global maritime issues. First, it is important to uphold multilateralism. UNCLOS is a result of successful multilateral diplomacy and important outcomes of multilateralism. Second, it is important to promote fairness and justice. UNCLOS provides an institutional framework to ensure the effective participation of developing countries in matters related to the international seabed. It has been instrumental in opposing maritime hegemony, protecting maritime interests, and promoting maritime cooperation. Third, it is important to stay open-minded and move forward. UNCLOS is not isolated or insulated, but rather inclusive and adjustable. It should keep pace with the times to better adapt to international maritime practices.

Wang Yi said, as a major developing maritime country, China seeks to balance its legitimate rights and interests with the overall interests of the international community, and always stands together with other developing countries. We have participated in the whole process of UNCLOS negotiations, and were among the first countries to sign the Convention. China always honors the spirit of UNCLOS, strictly fulfills its obligations, firmly defends the integrity and authority of UNCLOS, and opposes attempts at abusing the dispute settlement procedures of the Convention. China always believes that maritime disputes should be settled by the parties directly concerned through friendly consultation on the basis of respecting historical facts and international laws including UNCLOS.

Wang Yi said, at this new historical starting point, we should join hands to usher in a new journey of maritime governance. To this end, we need to focus our collective efforts on four aspects:

First, we need to act as a community with a shared future to promote sustainable development of the sea. We need to act on the Global Development Initiative proposed by President Xi Jinping, deepen practical maritime cooperation, fulfill the UN sustainable development goals, and turn the sea into an enduring driving force for sustainable development of all countries.

Second, we need to champion dialogue and consultation to maintain peace and tranquility of the sea. We must bear in mind that humanity is an indivisible security community, and should always settle maritime disputes through peaceful means. We should uphold “freedom of navigation” and oppose “freedom of willfulness”. We should advocate dialogue and consultation, and say no to sabre-rattling.

Third, we need to promote international cooperation to preserve the ecological environment of the sea. We need to act on the philosophy of green development and advance global cooperation to protect the marine environment. We should do more to address both the symptoms and root causes, strike a balance between preservation and reasonable utilization, and work together to leave clean oceans and blue sky for our future generations.

Fourth, we need to uphold the international rule of law to improve global maritime governance. The Convention should be interpreted and applied in its entirety, accurately, and in good faith. It's important to make and improve equitable and reasonable international maritime rules that can stand the test of history and reality.

Wang Yi said, the sea is the common home of humanity, and its protection and sustainable use is the shared responsibility of us all. China is ready to work with all parties to uphold the purposes of UNCLOS, deliver its aspirations, and strive for a higher-standard global maritime governance and greater maritime welfare of mankind.


“UNCLOS at 40: Retrospect and Prospect” was co-hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Natural Resources of China. UN Under-Secretary-General and Legal Counsel Miguel de Serpa Soares attended and addressed the opening ceremony via video link. President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea Albert J. Hoffmann, Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority Michael W. Lodge, Chair of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf Adnan Rashid Nasser Al-Azri, Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization Kitack Lim and other responsible persons of important sea-related international organizations were present and made remarks. Experts and scholars from the United States, Germany, Australia, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Singapore and other countries were present online and conduct in-depth discussions.

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