China has supported a United Nations decision to debate the Security Council’s use of veto powers, but with reservations.
The UN General Assembly on Tuesday passed a resolution requiring Security Council vetos to be subject to scrutiny by all 193 member states. The push for reform came after the world body was criticized for failing to prevent Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but will not affect the veto power held by the five permanent council members – China, Russia, the United States, France and Britain.
China, as one of the five, “understands and agrees with the starting point of this resolution” as introducing country Liechtenstein submitted the draft under the agenda of “strengthening of the UN system”, said Jiang Hua, counsellor at China’s Permanent Mission to the UN.
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More than 80 countries co-sponsored the draft, with Russia and China the only permanent Security Council members not among them.
“In the cases that disagreement among the permanent members leads to the council being unable to act on major issues of peace and security, we are in favor of member states discussing them on the platform of the UN General Assembly,” Jiang told the assembly after the vote.
Jiang noted, however, that the new mandate thus given to the assembly creates a mechanism that automatically triggers the convening of a debate meeting following a veto.
“That in practice is likely to cause procedural confusion and chaos. At this point it is difficult to determine whether such an arrangement would achieve the intended purpose of the resolution,” he said.
Under the terms of the resolution, the assembly will meet within 10 working days of a veto to “hold a debate on the situation” that sparked the move. The assembly is not required to take action, but it does potentially put the vetoing nation in the hot seat to defend its decision in this potentially significant check on behaviour.
However, the vetoing nation has the option not to answer questions before the General Assembly.
The UN Charter authorizes the 15-member Security Council – with its five permanent plus 10 non-permanent members elected for two-year terms – to make decisions and take action on the maintenance of international peace and security. Permanent members have the power to unilaterally block any deal.
On February 26, two days after Russia invaded Ukraine, the council discussed a resolution requiring Moscow to halt its assault and pull back its troops. The resolution was vetoed by Russia, sparking new criticisms over the UN’s role. China abstained on this vote.
Between 1992 and February this year, Russia used the veto 120 times, compared with 82 for the US, 27 for Britain, 17 for China and 16 for France, according to the Security Council Report watchdog group.
China has promoted moves to improve the council’s working methods, enhance transparency and expand its membership, especially for small and medium-sized countries, Jiang said.
“The international community expects the permanent members to set an example by taking the lead in supporting multilateralism, abiding by the international rule of law, fulfilling their international obligations and promoting global cooperation.”
This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP’s Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2022 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.
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