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U.N. Conference on Law of Sea Recommended

[This unsigned article is reprinted from Peking Review, #44, November 2, 1973, p. 13.]

THE U.N. Political and Security Committee adopted a resolution on October 26 recommending that the General Assembly hold the inaugural session of the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea in New York from November 26 to December 7 this year and the substantive session in Caracas, Venezuela, from May 14 to July 19, 1974.

The committee also decided to request that the U.N. Secretary-General invite the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam, the Republic of Guinea-Bissau and the U.N. Council for Namibia to participate in the conference together with member states of the U.N. and other organizations.

The resolution was adopted by 106-0 votes, including China, with nine abstentions: the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic, Hungary, Mongolia, Poland and the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.

The Political and Security Committee began debate on this item October 15 after hearing the report on the preparatory work, entrusted to the U.N. Sea-Bed Committee, for the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea.

In order to maintain superpower maritime hegemonism, Soviet Representative Dmitry N. Kolesnik, taking a stand in direct opposition to the common desire of the developing countries to defend their state sovereignty and maritime resources, obstructed the convening of the conference from the very beginning under the pretext that it is “premature.” The Soviet representative openly claimed that the convening of the conference needs “the support of all countries” and must take into consideration the interests of the Soviet Union. He even threatened that the rules drawn up at the coming conference “must be universal in character,” otherwise these rules “would not be binding” on certain states, and “would not be able to replace the existing rules of international law.” For fear of the developing countries having a majority vote to adopt decisions, the Soviet representative in fact insisted on having the right of veto. He also opposed holding the second session of the conference in a developing country, thus exposing the nature of the Soviet Union as a social-imperialist country and getting itself greatly isolated in the process of the debate.

U.S. Representative John R. Stevenson favoured convening the conference on the law of the sea, but stressed in his speech that “voting at the conference occurs only when there is broad general agreement among delegations that the time is ripe.”

Representatives from many developing countries and small and medium-sized countries expressed strong opposition to maritime hegemonism, the obstruction to convening the conference to draft a new law of the sea and the attempt by big powers to establish the right of “veto” at the conference.

Chinese Representative Ling Ching pointed out in his speech that “the entire preparatory work of the conference on the law of the sea has been fraught with acute and complicated struggles. The numerous small and medium-sized countries strongly demand the formulation of a fair and reasonable new law of the sea that protects their legitimate rights. The superpowers, however, oppose any proposal for substantive changes in the old law of the sea.”

Ling Ching said: “Here we cannot but point out that during our discussions last week a superpower, under the smokescreen of practising ‘consensus,’ asserted that the rules of a new law of the sea would have international observance only if they were supported by all countries and that the holding of the conference on the law of the sea should also depend on the aforementioned conditions. The intent of these remarks is all too obvious: That is, as long as this superpower alone does not agree, the conference cannot be held and the new law of the sea cannot be established. Is this not typical hegemonism? As is well known, it is necessary now to formulate a new law of the sea precisely because the old law of the sea protects the interests of the imperialist powers while subjecting the numerous small and medium-sized countries to plunder and humiliation. If the new law of the sea should be the same as the old, what is the need for drafting a new law of the sea? Would not the six-year work of the Sea-Bed Committee be in vain? The representative of one developing country has put it correctly: That is an attempt at the ‘establishment of the veto’ at the conference by big powers which consider that ‘their economic interests and political ambitions must prevail over the fate of the rest of the nations of the world.’ Obviously, if those views of that superpower were accepted, it would be impossible to work out a fair and reasonable new law of the sea. In our opinion, consultations are desirable, but there certainly should be some method of voting in formulating a new law of the sea. The Chinese Delegation firmly opposes the attempt by a certain superpower to impose on the conference the so-called principle of ‘consensus’ which is tantamount to a veto.”

He emphasized that the conference must respect the resolution adopted at the 26th Session of the General Assembly regarding restoration of the lawful rights of the People’s Republic of China and that the representatives of the Chiang Kai-shek clique should not be invited to attend the conference on the law of the sea.

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