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Statement on Agenda Item of the Workload of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf by Mr. WANG Zonglai, Head of Chinese Delegation
New York, 17 June 2008



Mr. President,

First of all, I would like to use this opportunity to extend my appreciation to the members of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS). Over the past year, in spite of considerable difficulties and daunting challenges, the Commission has made persistent and steady efforts in considering the submissions concerning the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles.

The Chinese delegation attaches great importance to the discussion on the agenda item of the workload of the CLCS. It is an important task given by the 17th States Parties meeting of last year. The decision of the previous session to continue with the discussion on this issue fully demonstrates its significance to all the States Parties of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). And the deliberation during this meeting even bears greater importance and more urgency, since there are only 11 months left before 13th May 2009, which is the time limit for the States Parties to file their submissions concerning their outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles. My delegation specifically notes that many developing States have special concerns for such a time limit. We support the proposal made by the Delegations of Cape Verde and others. Both the 1982 UNCLOS as well as the States Parties meeting of the UNCLOS place considerable emphasis on enhancing the abilities of the developing States. This meeting shall deal with it as a priority.

Mr. President,

The ocean is a flowing body as a whole. The international community shall pay more attention to issues related to oceans and shall promote cooperation and coordination in this area. The determination of the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles of the relevant coastal States is one of the major events in the current international maritime affairs, which directly affects the overall interests of the international community. In particular, it will define the extent of the international seabed area, which is the common heritage of mankind. Every State, coastal or land-blocked, big or small, developing or developed, is a stake holder. While preparing for its own submission, China has grave concerns over a series of important questions brought about by the determination of the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles.

In accordance with the 1982 UNCLOS, the limit of the continental shelf established by a coastal State on the basis of the recommendations made by the CLCS is final and binding. And, the recommendations of the CLCS and the decisions of the coastal States made pursuant thereto evidently affect the rights and interests of the international community as a whole. They may also affect rights and interest of States other than the coastal States who make the submissions. That's the reason we shall ensure the work of the CLCS would withstand the scrutiny of the international community and the test of history. To achieve this goal, we need to consider and address many issues, including:

What could be done by the States Parties of the UNCLOS as well as the international community in solving difficulties confronted by the CLCS and providing it with more favorable working conditions, especially under the current complex situation not envisaged when the UNCLOS was being negotiated?

How to deal with the ten-year time limit since it has been evident that the completion of the consideration of all the submissions filed and to be filed will be in an infinitely remote future?

How to provide special assistance to the developing States Parties who need more time and resources in preparing their submissions?

How could the interested parties other than the submitting States participate in the process of the establishment of the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles?

Is there any and space for the CLCS to further polish its rules of procedure and improve its working method?

Mr. President,

The above may not be an exhaustive list of questions, but is still enough to compel all of us into deep thinking.

The Chinese delegation wishes to reiterate that, past experience and practice have shown that the inherent complexities and difficulties of the establishment of the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles are hard to imagine at the time when the UNCLOS was being drafted. We shall not simply push ahead without seeing the road under our feet, even nor shall we do so at the expense of the scientific nature of the work of the CLCS and the pursuit of objectivity and precision by its members. And under the current complex and ever-changing circumstances, it seems that the artificially-set time limit of May 2009 no longer serves the same purpose as expected. We call upon this meeting to explore all possible ways and means to ensure the orderly function of the CLCS, and to enable all States, especially the developing States be able to make submissions with sufficient and sound scientific evidence.

The Chinese delegation is open to any proposals or suggestions which are conducive to the attainment of the above goal.

Of course, my delegation also believes that the decisions of the States Parties who have been fully prepared to file the submissions shall be respected.

We would also like to reiterate that the Chinese government will, as always, ensure its member in the CLCS duly fulfill his duty, and continue to provide assistance as we can to the CLCS, including financial assistance. Chinese delegation is willing to take part in the discussion of this meeting in a constructive and opened-minded manner, and make its inputs to help the meeting achieve positive results.

Thank you, Mr. President.


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