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Statement by H.E. Ambassador SHA Zukang, Head of the Chinese Delegation to the 2nd Review Conference of the States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May be Deemed to be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects (December 11, 2001)
2004/04/16
Mr. President,

First of all, let me start, on behalf of the Chinese delegation, by congratulating you on your election to the presidency of this Conference.  I am convinced that with your diplomatic skills and wisdom, you will guide the Conference to a successful conclusion.  Meanwhile, I also wish to thank you and the friends of the chair for the efforts made during the preparatory process leading up to this Conference.  The Chinese delegation will cooperate fully with you and make our contribution to the success of the Conference.

Mr. President,

The history of human civilization is also a history of war.  The coexistence of civilization and war as well as the human conscience has led to unremitting efforts to regulate the conduct of war.  It is against such a backdrop that the law of war and armed conflict, or the international humanitarian law, has taken shape.  Nowadays, the parties engaged in a war or an armed conflict no longer have a free hand in the choice of fighting methods and means.  It has become a universally accepted principle of international law that it is impermissible to use those fighting methods or means that cause excessive injuries or have indiscriminate effects.

The Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), on which we are about to deliberate, is exactly an embodiment of this principle.  Since its entry into force, the Convention has been gradually strengthened and improved thanks to the joint efforts of high contracting parties.  It has provided a necessary legal framework for alleviating the cruelty of wars and armed conflicts and the humanitarian concerns arising therefrom.

In the meantime, we should also recognize that wars and armed conflicts, as the highest and cruelest form of human strife, are by nature irreconcilable with humanitarianism.  Therefore, as a Chinese idiom goes, a disease should be treated both at its symptoms and its causes.  It is inconceivable that merely through restrictions on the use of certain weapons, a cruel war can be made "humane".  Wars and armed conflicts are by nature inhumane for combatants and civilians.  To fundamentally resolve the humanitarian concerns arising from wars and armed conflicts, we should try our best to reduce and avoid the occurrence of wars and armed conflicts themselves.

Mr. President,

Since the First Review Conference, significant progress has been achieved in the CCW process.  The number of states parties to the Convention has increased from 49 to 88.  The purposes and objectives of the Convention have obtained universal recognition.  We are particularly delighted to note that, the amended Landmine Protocol, a major achievement of the First Review Conference, has been accepted by an increasing number of countries and is playing an important role in addressing the humanitarian concerns caused by landmines.  It is our sincere hope that the current Conference will thoroughly review the implementation of the Convention and its protocols over the past 5 years.  On that basis, we can promote the implementation process and contribute to the attainment of the purposes and objectives of the Convention.

China signed and ratified the Convention in 1981 and in 1982 respectively.  China was among the first countries to do so.  As a state party to the Convention and all of its 4 annexed Protocols, China has always fulfilled its legal obligations in a faithful manner and made active efforts to promote the CCW process.

First, the Chinese Government has launched a number of education campaigns to improve public awareness of the Convention and its Protocols.  The Chinese military has sponsored a series of training courses for officers and soldiers at all levels on the Convention and its protocols.  To facilitate concrete implementation of the Convention, the Chinese military has put emphasis on regulating the actual and potential users of the landmines, by revising the teaching materials of the military academies and relevant operational manuals in accordance with the Convention and its protocols.

Secondly, the Chinese military has formulated weapon development plans in accordance with the provisions of the Convention and its protocols.  Following those provisions, the Chinese military is intensifying its efforts to formulate or revise national military standards and to develop new weapons.

Thirdly, we have improved domestic laws and regulations to guarantee the enforcement of the Convention and its protocols in China.

Fourthly, the Chinese Government has launched domestic mine clearance campaigns and implemented international de-mining assistance programs, so as to address the humanitarian concerns caused by landmines.  From 1992 to 1999, the Chinese Government carried out two large-scale de-mining operations in its border areas in Yunnan and Guangxi provinces, removing the threat posed by landmines left over from previous armed conflicts and paving the way for local economic development.  In addition to the domestic de-mining efforts, China has also actively participated in international de-mine assistance programs.  This year, China has donated mine detection and clearance equipment to 7 mine-stricken countries, including Angola, Cambodia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Namibia and Rwanda.

Mr. President,

We have noticed that some countries have put forward proposals to amend the Convention and its protocols and to conclude new protocols.  The Chinese delegation appreciates the efforts made by those countries.  Meanwhile, we maintain that for any proposal to succeed, they should not be too much divorced from reality.

Now, I would like to present the Chinese delegation's positions on those proposals.

First, on the expansion of the scope of application of the Convention and its protocols.  We believe that this proposal is in line with the spirit of humanitarianism and is conducive to the attainment of the purposes and objectives of the Convention.  We have no objection to it in principle.  As for the modalities to expand the scope, we are in favor of amending Article Ⅰ of the Convention.  Meanwhile, to avoid unnecessary restraints on possible future protocols, we stand for setting a "safeguard" when expanding the scope.  That is to say, the provisions on the expansion of scope should not automatically apply to the new protocols negotiated after the Second Review Conference.

Secondly, on the compliance mechanism.  The Chinese delegation is of the view that the unique features of the CCW and its protocols should be taken into consideration while contemplating a compliance mechanism for either the amended Landmine Protocol or the Convention and its protocols as a whole, so as to ensure its feasibility.  Given the complexity of the issue and the diverging views among the states parties, we believe that it is premature for the present to establish a compliance mechanism with built-in on-site investigation for the Convention or its protocols.  It would be more feasible to promote compliance with the Convention through encouragement and 3C measures, namely, cooperation, consultation and clarification.

Thirdly, on explosive remnants of war (ERW).  In fact, China is a victim of ERW.  Today, a large number of unexploded ordnance left over from World War Ⅱ remains on the Chinese territory, posing serious threats to the lives and property of local people.  Besides China, many other countries and regions are faced with the threat of ERWs.  Even as we are having this conference, a large number of unexploded ordnance in Afghanistan is causing new humanitarian problems, taking the lives of the Afghan people and damaging their property.  The international community should take concrete measures to clear the existing ERWs as soon as possible.  Therefore, from the humanitarian perspective, the Chinese delegation has no objection to exploring and addressing the ERW issue.  Since ERW covers a wide range of ammunitions and is a very complicated issue, it cannot be resolved overnight.  As for how to handle the issue, we stand for a two-step approach: first, to establish a group of governmental experts to explore all possible ways to address the issue; second, upon receiving the report of the GGE, the States Parties may decide whether to take further actions.  As for the mandate of the GGE, we maintain that the mandate should be broad and general and should not prescribe any negotiation or any artificial timeline.  

Fourthly, on wound ballistics regulations for small-caliber weapons and ammunitions.  The Chinese delegation appreciates the efforts by Switzerland and International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) in this regard.  We will continue to participate in the discussions on this issue in an open-minded manner.

Finally, I would like to explain our position on the anti-vehicle landmine (AVL) issue.  To begin with, I wish to reiterate China's opposition to the conclusion of an AVL protocol.  As is well known, the international humanitarian law on fighting methods and means is the product of a balance between legitimate military needs and humanitarian concerns.  Naturally, the CCW and its protocols have inherited this feature.  The success of the CCW hinges upon the above-mentioned balance.  We should adhere to this important principle when considering any proposal to amend the Convention or its protocols or to negotiate any new protocol.  As for the AVL issue, there is no evidence indicating that the use of AVLs in wars and armed conflicts has led to serious humanitarian problems.  Further restrictions on the use of AVLs might help reduce the accidental civilian casualties caused by such weapons.  However, we should also recognize that AVL is a crucial and irreplaceable means of national defense for many countries, including China.  Any inappropriate restrictions on the use of AVLs may be detrimental to the security interests of those countries, which in itself runs counter to the basic spirit of humanitarianism.

It is also noteworthy that the proposed technical specifications for AVL are actually based on those of the existing equipment of a few countries.  Should these specifications become law, they will not entail any new obligations for those countries.  As for China and other developing countries, we certainly wish to be able to produce the same "smart" landmines as those developed countries do, but unfortunately, the accompanying financial burdens and technical difficulties are something that we will not be able to bear and overcome in the foreseeable future.

We hold that the provisions of the amended Landmine Protocol on AVL are appropriate.  They do not contain unrealistic and inelastic technical criteria, thus avoiding any possible compromise on the security of the developing countries or unnecessary technical and financial burdens for them.  At the same time, they also point out the directions in which those countries with requisite financial resources and technical capabilities should make their efforts, and provide the necessary legal framework for such efforts.  At present, on the one hand, it is most important to attract more countries to accede to the amended Landmine Protocol, so as to give full play to its effect.  On the other hand, we also call upon those capable countries to take the lead in unilaterally putting into place the technical specifications as contained in the relevant proposals, and provide financial and technical assistance to developing countries, so as to make concrete contributions to the resolution of the AVL issue.  Premature discussions or even attempting to force through an AVL protocol would only give rise to unnecessary disputes or even a conflict of law, both of which are detrimental to the universality of the existing Landmine Protocol.

Mr. President,

The current CCW Review Conference is convened against the backdrop of solidarity and cooperation among the international community after the terrorist attacks on September 11th.  It is the sincere hope of the Chinese delegation that all States Parties present here will, in a spirit of cooperation, take a realistic attitude in our discussions and in our efforts to resolve our differences, so as to ensure the success of our conference, which will go a long way in promoting the effective implementation of the Convention and its protocols and the continuous evolution of the Convention.

I wish the conference a complete success!

Thank you, Mr. President.
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