U.N. Sea-Bed Committee Ends Session
[This unsigned article is reprinted from Peking Review, #34, Aug. 25, 1972, pp. 10-14.]
THE United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of the Sea-Bed and the Ocean Floor Beyond the Limits of National Jurisdiction concluded its second session of this year in Geneva on August 18.
At its plenary meeting that day, the committee approved the list of subjects and issues related to the law of the sea submitted by 56 Asian, African, Latin American and European countries. The list will serve as an outline for discussions by the conference on the law of the sea. The Sea-Bed Committee was convened in preparation for the conference.
The Sea-Bed Committee session, which began on July 17, debated hotly on the list submitted by Algeria and 55 other countries and on questions related to the exploitation of sea-bed resources. The representatives of many Asian, African and Latin American countries and a number of other countries waged a fierce struggle against the two superpowers in defence of their state sovereignty and for the development of their national economy. The representatives of many developing countries sternly condemned and exposed the superpowers’ unjustifiable stand in defiance of the sovereign rights of the coastal states and their wanton plunder of ocean resources.
The representatives of Tanzania, China and many other countries refuted the superpowers’ call for “free transit” through straits within the territorial waters of coastal states.
The representatives of Chile, Peru, Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela, Ecuador and other countries, reciting the Declaration of Santo Domingo, reaffirmed the legitimate right of a coastal state, in the light of geographical, biological and national security considerations, to fix the outer limit of its territorial sea and adjacent area under national jurisdiction, and to control and protect all the resources within the area.
The representative of Argentina said that all coastal resources should be administered by the coastal state. The representative of Kenya, giving the views of the African countries on the law of the sea, said that all states have the right to determine the limits of their jurisdiction over the seas adjacent to the territorial sea in accordance with their own geographical, geological, biological, ecological, economic and national security factors. They also have the right to establish economic zones, he added.
The representatives of many developing countries strongly condemned the superpowers and some fishing powers for their plunder of high-sea resources and the fish resources of other countries. The representatives of Chile and some other countries cited facts to show that the corporations of the United States and some other countries had unlawfully exploited minerals beneath high seas. They urged immediate actions to be taken to stop such plunder of common wealth of mankind. The representative of Morocco condemned the devastation of Morocco’s fish resources by foreign vessels near its shores. He said that the coastal states should have the right to create special fishing zones. The representatives of Iceland and other North European countries reiterated their stand to defend their fishing areas.
Many representatives of the Asian, African and Latin American countries emphasized that the old Law of the Sea must be reformed so as to reflect the interests of the developing countries. The representative of Chile pointed out clearly that the old doctrine of freedom of the seas benefited the industrialized countries but harmed the states that achieved independence in recent years. Other representatives said that the law of the sea must guarantee the full sovereignty of coastal states and protect the interests of developing countries, coastal or landlocked.
The second session of the Sea-Bed Committee also adopted reports by its three sub-committees. During the debate on the report of its Sub-Committee Two, the representative of the Soviet Union asked to insert into the report a clause which in substance allows operations by the fishing powers in the fishing areas of the coastal states. As most of the representatives spoke strongly against it, the unjustifiable Soviet demand was rejected by the session.
Following are excerpts from the Chinese representatives’ speeches at some meetings of the U.N. Sea-Bed Committee. Title and subheads are ours.
On Governing International Sea-Bed Area
Hsia Pu, Chinese Representative to the United Nations Sea-Bed Committee, in his speech at the meeting of Sub-Committee One on the afternoon of July 27, expounded the views of the Chinese Delegation on an international regime applying to the sea-bed area and its resources beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.
Hsia Pu pointed out, “We consider it necessary to establish an international regime applying to the sea-bed area and its resources beyond the limits of national jurisdiction. We are ready to exchange views with our fellow representatives in seeking a reasonable solution to this question.”
He said that when the Declaration of Principles Governing the Sea-Bed and the Ocean Floor, and the Subsoil Thereof, Beyond the Limits of National Jurisdiction was adopted in 1970 by the General Assembly of the United Nations at its 25th Session, the rightful seat of China in the United Nations had not yet been restored to her. Therefore, we wish to express our views on a number of questions in the delcaration for further study by our fellow representatives.
Reasonable Provisions of the Declaration of Principles
“Since they are beyond national jurisdiction, the international sea-bed area and its resources are, in principle, commonly owned by the people of all the countries of the world. In other words, it is impermissible for maritime hegemonic powers to wilfully seize the area beyond the limits of national jurisdiction and plunder resources in this area,” Hsia Pu pointed out. “The declaration of principles explicitly stipulates that no state or person shall appropriate by any means any part of the area, exercise sovereignty over it or claim rights with respect to it which are incompatible with the international regime to be established. This is quite indispensable. The colonialists used to commit plunder and aggression by making use of the so-called ‘rights of prescription.’ In recent years, the superpowers have frequently distorted and misused what they call ‘freedoms of the high seas’ in order to push hegemony on the sea. This is something that must be firmly opposed.
“The declaration stipulates that in the international sea-bed area, an international regime applying to the area and its resources, including an appropriate international machinery, should be established. We hold that this international regime and machinery must ensure that the area is under rational management, and that they must not be manipulated and monopolized by the superpowers, so that its benefits may be shared by all countries, with the interests and needs of the developing countries, whether land-locked or coastal, taken into particular consideration.
“A number of other provisions of the declaration of principles are designed to ensure peaceful uses of the sea-bed area, protect the marine environment, safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of the coastal states and such other countries as may be affected, authorize the coastal states to take measures to prevent or cope with pollution and other hazards, etc. These provisions are also reasonable.”
Hsia Pu continued, “We hold that the foregoing provisions in the declaration of principles are basically in conformity with the interests of the peoples of all countries. Therefore, we agree in principle to establish an international regime governing the international sea-bed area on the basis of these provisions.”
Some Provisions Not Explicit Enough
He pointed out: There are some provisions in the declaration of principles which are not explicit enough. For example, do the resources to be controlled by the international regime include living resources? We think that it is appropriate to include living resources in the scope of its control. Another controversial question is whether the function of the international regime to be established is confined only to governing the activities of the exploration of the sea-bed and the exploitation of its resources. The declaration of principles has not made explicit provisions with regard to this question. We are of the view that the function of the international regime should not be confined only to governing the activities of the exploration and exploitation of the sea-bed. It should be pointed out that some representatives are doing their utmost to minimize the governing role of the international regime, the easier will it be for the superpowers to make use of the so-called “traditional international law” to maintain all their vested rights and interests. If what is to be governed concerning the international sea-bed area is limited to the exploitation of the sea-bed mineral resources, it would not be in the interests of the developing countries and would run counter to the concept of the common heritage of mankind.
Nuclear Submarines Should Be Prohibited in International Sea-Bed Area
The Chinese representative emphasized, “The international sea-bed area should be used exclusively for peaceful purposes, and to ensure their realization, an appropriate and effective international regime should be jointly worked out by all countries. This is entirely necessary. Now, some people have proposed to include the question of the prohibition of nuclear tests and the emplacement of nuclear weapons in the sea-bed area into the international regime. In this regard, we wish to state our position. It is well known that now the two superpowers are possessing large quantities of nuclear weapons. They have not only manufactured and stockpiled large quantities of nuclear weapons within their own countries, but have also set up nuclear bases on the territories of other countries. Their warships carrying nuclear weapons are plying the oceans of the world and their airplanes carrying nuclear weapons are flying over the air space of other countries. Under the circumstances, to advocate prohibition of nuclear tests in the international sea-bed area is in effect designed to enable the two superpowers to continue monopolizing nuclear weapons, control other countries and tie the hands peace-loving countries. This is what we cannot accept.
He expounded the consistent stand of the Chinese Government for the complete prohibition and thorough destruction of nuclear weapons. He pointed out, “Now, the warships of the superpowers carrying nuclear weapons are docking, plying and navigating the oceans of the world, and are making nuclear threat and nuclear blackmail to the peoples of all countries. Under such circumstances, we should first of all prohibit the activities of all the nuclear-powered submarines in the international sea-bed area and in the sea-bed area of other states. It is not enough to merely prohibit the emplacement of nuclear weapons and the carrying out of nuclear tests in the sea-bed area. In particular, the prohibition of nuclear tests in the sea-bed area is of little practical significance. On the contrary, it would create a false sense of security. This is what we cannot agree.” He said that the Chinese Delegation hereby proposes that the related paragraphs of the working paper should be deleted to be replaced by the following sentences: “The activities of all nuclear-powered submarines in the international sea-bed area and in the sea-bed area of other states are prohibited. The emplacement of nuclear weapons and all other weapons in the international sea-bed area and in the sea-bed area of other states is prohibited.”
Hsia Pu stated, “The foregoing is our position with regard to the international regime governing the international sea-bed area, and also serves as an amendment put forward by the Chinese Delegation to the working paper of the working group of Sub-Committee One.”
On Prevention and Control of Marine Pollution
Chinese Representative Chen Chih-fang, speaking at Sub-Committee Three on August 2, supported the right of coastal states to exercise jurisdiction and control marine pollution over areas within given limits, which are adjacent to their territorial seas. He further elaborated the views of the Chinese Government on the prevention and control of marine pollution.
The Chinese representative declared, “More and more sea areas of the world are being increasingly polluted following the development of capitalism into imperialism, and particularly because the superpowers are pursuing policies of plunder, aggression and war and because the monopoly-capitalist groups are blindly seeking high profits in disgregard of the safety of the people.”
Referring to the Chinese Government’s efforts to prevent environmental pollution in a systematic way, he said, “We wish to learn from the successful experience of all countries in this respect and work together with our fellow representatives for the protection and improvement of the global marine environment.”
Right of Coastal States
Chen Chih-fang noted the differences of opinion on the prevention and control of marine pollution. He supported the statements made by many representatives who maintained that coastal states have the right to exercise direct jurisdiction and control over areas within given limits, which are adjacent to their territorial seas, for the purpose of preventing, reducing or eliminating the serious harms of pollution. He condemned the superpowers for their opposition, under various pretexts, to this right of the coastal states.
The Chinese representative stated, “We think that coastal states, being the direct victims of marine pollution, have the full right as well as necessity to exercise direct jurisdiction and control over areas within given limits, which are adjacent to their territorial seas, in order to protect the health and security of their people and meet the needs of their economic development. The proposals submitted by representatives of many countries at the Sea-Bed Committee with a view to safeguarding the rights of the coastal states are of positive significance to the prevention of marine pollution. Any argument aimed at opposing or weakening such jurisdiction of coastal states is detrimental to the prevention of marine pollution and runs counter to the desire of the peoples of the world to preserve the marine environment and is therefore unacceptable.”
The Chinese representative refuted the erroneous argument aimed at opposing such jurisdiction of coastal states and emphasized that “at present, some representative figures of those countries which are chiefly responsible for marine pollution have been compelled by domestic and external pressure to strike a posture of concern for the marine environment. But practice is the sole test of truth. In order to judge whether a country is really concerned for the preservation of the marine environment, one has only to watch whether it respects the rights and interests of other countries and the national and international anti-pollution regulations, and whether it exercises strict control over its internal marine dumping and take effective measures to solve the problem of discharging harmful substances. If a country only professes in words to be concerned with marine pollution but is in fact energetically opposed to the jurisdiction by the coastal states and even dumps large amounts of poison gas and other harmful substances into the ocean or makes the sweeping charge that ‘everybody is equally responsible for marine pollution’ in an attempt to shift its own responsibility onto others, it is certainly not sincere but hypocritical, or even harbours ulterior motives. The people of the world will certainly see through it all.”
Chen Chih-fang went on to elaborate the stand of the Chinese Government on the prevention and control of marine pollution. He said, “We have the following views to present: First, the rights of coastal states must be respected. The coastal states have the right to adopt necessary measures in sea areas within given limits, which are adjacent to their territorial seas, to guard their marine environment against pollution from outside, and have the right to demand compensation from states causing damage to their marine environment by pollution.
“Second, each state must fulfil its obligation. All states, especially industrially developed states, have the obligation to strengthen control over their internal marine dumping and take effective measures to solve the problem of discharging harmful substances and prevent the pollution of their own sea areas from spreading to and damaging the marine environment of other states or beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.
“Third, international regulation should be established. Measures of regulation in respect of the marine environment beyond the limits of national jurisdiction should be adopted, such as the establishment of anti-pollution standards for it, the definition of repsonsibilities of states, the strict prohibition of the use of the sea area as the dumping ground of highly poisonous substances, and the prevention of marine pollution caused by the exploration and exploitation of the international sea-bed area, etc., so as to effectively protect the marine environment of this area.”
On Prohibition and Destruction of Nuclear Weapons
With regard to New Zealand’s draft resolution against any nuclear tests on behalf of Australia and other countries, Chen Chih-fang reiterated, in his speech at the Sub-Committee Three meeting on August 3, China’s consistent principled stand on complete prohibition and thorough distruction of nuclear weapons.
He said, “China develops nuclear weapons entirely for the purpose of defence and for breaking the nuclear monopoly of the superpowers and finally to attain the aim of eliminating nuclear weapons and nuclear war. We have consistently stood for complete prohibition and thorough destruction of nuclear weapons and declared on many occasions that at no time and in no circumstances will China be the first to use nuclear weapons. However, the superpowers are not only strongly opposed to any agreement on the complete prohibition and thorough destruction of nuclear weapons, but have to this day still obstinately refused to commit itself [sic] not to be the first to use nuclear weapons. In these circumstances, to merely ask for the prohibition of nuclear tests precisely suits the needs of the superpowers and can only tie the hands of the peace-loving countries and people, thus helping to consolidate the nuclear monopoly of the superpowers. This is not in accord with the fundamental interests of the people of all countries.” Chen Chih-fang said, “It is regretable that the representative of New Zealand, in his statement of August 2, should accuse China, which conducted limited and necessary nuclear tests for the purpose of defence, of ‘presenting the most obvious threat to the environment.’ It is well known to all that China has conducted very few nuclear tests. Moreover, they were carried out over the air space of the inland of its own territory, taking into account various factors such as climate, wind directions, etc., and adopting measures to avoid as far as possible bringing nuclear contamination to its own people and people of other countries. Therefore, no harm has been caused so far. It is obvious that the accusation made by the representative of New Zealand is at variance with the facts.”
On Conference on the Law of the Sea
Chinese Representative Chen Chih-fang made a speech at the plenary session on August 17 concerning the time, place and more preparations for the conference on the law of the sea. He refuted the trumpted-up charges made by the Soviet representative against the Chinese Delegation.
Time and Place for the Conference
As regards the time and place for the conference on the law of the sea, Chen Chih-fang said, “Thanks to the many positive proposals and reasonable recommendations made by the developing and the small and medium-sized countries in the course of discussion, our session has witnessed a certain measure of progress. This is gratifying. But the progress has been slow because the superpowers have adamantly clung to their position of maritime hegemony and placed many obstacles in the way of various questions. Obviously, the preparations made so far for the conference on the law of the sea are not adequate. Making ample preparations is of great importance if the conference is to achieve fruitful results. Delegations of many countries have proposed that there should be two more sessions of the Sea-Bed Committee to complete its preparatory work. We think it to be entirely necessary. Some delegations recommended that the precise time for convening the conference should be fixed in the light of the progress of the preparatory work in 1973. We think this is well-grounded.”
“Chile and Austria have extended their warm invitations for the conference on the law of thesea to be held in Santiago and Vienna. We express our appreciation for their kindness. It is the view held by many countries that the next conference on the law of the sea should be held in a developing country. We support this reasonable suggestion. Some other delegations have suggested that it can be held by stages in different countries. We think that this question may be considered at the same time when the U.N. General Assembly meets to decide on the time of the conference to be convened.”
Concerning the draft resolution put forward by the thirteen states including Algeria, Brazil, Chile and Kuwait, the Chinese representative said, “The Chinese Delegation as a co-sponsor of this draft resolution holds that, pending the establishment of an international regime for the sea-bed and ocean floor beyond national jurisdiction, activities aiming at commercial exploitation of the resources in the area should discontinue. As we know, while we are now working together in formulating draft articles on the international regime governing the area, a number of states have already started the exploitation of the resources in the area in an attempt to create a fait accompli and thereby to reduce our efforts into insignificance. This is obviously incompatible with the wishes of the great majority of states.”
Refute the Charges by Soviet Representative
“In his statement of August 10, the representative of the Soviet Union made trumped-up charges against the Chinese Delegation. He alleged that we ‘distorted the facts concerning the Soviet Union’ anddrew the committee into ‘political problems’ and ‘tried to make the committee choose another way, which is contributing little towards the success of our works.’ These allegations are utterly groundless. The representative of the Soviet Union was unable to give one example to substantiate on which point we have ‘distorted the facts concerning the Soviet Union.’ Therefore, such accusations do not merit any refutation on our part,” Chen Chih-fang pointed out.
“Everybody knows who has attempted to deny that the resources in the sea-bed and ocean floor beyond national jurisdiction are the common heritage of mankind, and even to oppose the use of such phrases as ‘limits of national jurisdiction’ and ‘international sea-bed area,’ thus provoking so much uncalled-for debates. Everybody knows also who has stubbornly demanded the right of ‘free transit’ through straits within the territorial sea of the coastal states and has even gone to the length of asserting that ‘free transit’ through straits by warships can ‘contribute to the promotion of international trade’ rather than pose a threat to the security of the coastal states. It may be asked: which way are they making the committee choose in its work by such absurities? Anyone can draw his own conclusions from these facts,” he concluded.