Renege, Retraction, Recantation,and Repudiation are the diplomatic devices in the US statecraft which have been flagrantly resorted to by the US administration ever since it has acquired unassailable scale and stature in recent years. The US has been following the practice which I call “Unilateral Retraction from Global Entities & Treaties” (URGENT or Diplomacy of URGENT) in violation of global multilateralism, global constitutionalism and the global rule of law. US is a country that examines the human rights records of other nations and releases annual Human Rights Reports as a part of its pompous advocacy of human rights, the ostentatious championship of the rule of law and narcissistic foreign policy based on the absolute supremacy of US interests worldwide. On June 19, 2018, Nikki Haley—US Ambassador to the UN—declared the repudiation of US membership of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that has bomb shelled the UNHRC, and stunned the UN and flummoxed the rest of the world. The latest US position on UNHRC has created wide-ranging implications for the global human rights system and its functionalism. However, there was no astonishment in the US under Trump Presidency announcement as the international community got considerably accustomed to US volatility on global issues; for example, US retraction on Kyoto Protocol-1997, recantation on Paris Agreement-2015 (COP-21),cartwheeling the NAFTA,flip-flops on Iran Nuclear Deal and its summersaults on the WTO membership.
UNHRC Agenda Conundrum
The latest US renege from UNHRC has been there in the offing ever since the UNHRC President Vojislav Suc has mooted stopgap reforms proposals—Ambassador of Slovenia— to justify and streamline the UNHRC functioning, and enhancing its efficiency. However, these reform proposals have already been rejected by the EU (European Union) led by France, Belgium and Portugal and OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation). However, the rejection per se shall have an additional implication for the US due to its opposition to UNHRC Agenda “Item 7” where under debates hitherto have been directed at the conflict between Israel and Palestine, human rights of the people of Palestine and the Arab States every year. The UNHRC on June 30, 2006, voted to institutionalize permanently the Review Mechanism known as “UNHRC Agenda Item 7” to assess the human rights abuses committed by Israel at each UNHRC Session. Primarily, the impugned proposals intended to abdicate the current practice of addressing and debating the every UNHRC agenda item at every HRC Session that is convened thrice in a year. But the new reform proposals made provision to club together all agenda items and debates there under which have been alternated across the three annual UNHRC Sessions.
In principle, the US is utterly opposed to the “UNHRC Agenda Item 7” based on its flawed understanding that it is an institutional prejudice against the State of Israel whereas rest of the severe human rights abuses across the world are addressed under “HRC Agenda Item 4.” In July 2017, Haley stated in Geneva that the “UNHRC Agenda Item 7” is scandalous measure against the State of Israel and it does not have any legitimacy to exist. Though, the US objection on “UNHRC Agenda Item 7” is not new. The US Ex-President George W. Bush wanted to disengage from the UNHRC in its infancy years,but the US could thwart the adoption of the impugned UNHRC Agenda Item 7. However, in 2017 US allies led by the UK and the Netherlands mollified the US to accommodate the UNHRC Agenda Item 7 for an ephemeral period for its dilution under a UN General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution that still remains a distant dream. But, the more significant issue is as for how to improve the UNHRC Agenda that incorporates other US demands as well. The UNHRC Agenda could be improved by enhancing the membership of the UNHRC to attend the wide range of global human rights issues.
In this context, the Universal Rights Group (URG) convened an informal consultation with the help of the national governments of the UK, the Netherlands, Latvia, Mexico and Rwanda on December 01, 2017 in Geneva to strengthen the UNHRC.Around 120 States participated in the Consultation along with the UN representatives, NGOs and other selected stakeholders and all of them negotiated and brokered several key improvements that included the restructuring of the UNHRC Programmes by clustering and rotating the UNHRC agenda during the year, and inculcating the highest degree of transparency in the UNHRC functioning, elections, and membership under the auspices of UNGA.Thus, these reformative steps have been reflected in the formal process initiated by Ambassador Suc in January-February 2018 and that too from a US point of view.But, unfortunately, Ambassador Suc got a dent in his initiatives from his own backyard,i.e. the EU particularly from Belgium under the influence of Western Human Rights NGOs against any clustering and rotating the UNHRC Agenda Item 4, France and Portugal. It has been argued that the UNHRC Agenda Item 4 must be part of every session of the UNHRC due to its importance. Simultaneously, many Global South countries especially from the OIC expressed their reservations against any dilution of the UNHRC Agenda Item 7 that, ultimately, disenchanted the US and its allies.
Initially, the nation-states were not properly guided in their opposition,and it was the intent of the founders of the UNHRC that the members would cluster and rotate all agenda items across the three annual sessions of the UNHRC. In fact, it was not there in the initial understanding that UNHRC would decide every agenda item at every UNHRC session as per UNHRC Resolution 5/1in accordance with the IBP (Institutional Building Package) that was adopted by the UNHRC in June 2007.Similarly, Section VII read with Rule 8of the IBP states that at the beginning of each year, the UNHRC shall hold a meeting for the purposes of organizational, planning, and programme the work for the year, including tentative dates of consideration of the UNHRC Agenda Items and the number of meetings to be allotted to each agenda item. But these institutional directives were not heeded to in a regimental manner rather subsequent UNHRC Presidencies have not been active to adhere to the UNHRC mandate as per the IBP procedural mechanism for tangible results for the betterment of human rights around the world.
In such a scenario, the UNHRC has provided an opportunity to the US to withdraw from the UNHRC on the cosmetic ground of non-deletion of the UNHRC Agenda Item 7 and non-compliance of US desire of changing the UNHRC membership rules under the UNGA Resolution just to consign gross human rights transgressions into the dustbin. However, the US had made every effort to make its comparatively constructive and potentially pragmatic proposal materialized by circulating the Draft Text among its allies in Geneva on December 01, 2017 meetingat a time when the US decided to move its Embassy to Jerusalem. Therefore, it did not receive immediate support due to their anxiety about the process of critical institutional changes via ordinary resolutions moved by a single state.Thus, such a US modus operandi generated trepidation among the member states that in future, such a process might be appropriated by the other nation-states that would make the UNHRC invidious and in fructuous.
Therefore, the US exit narrative originates from the moment when States botched the UNHRC President’s February proposals. The primary responsibility for such an unfortunate move will have implications of far-reaching consequences worldwide. The US exit from the UNHRC would hurt the US most,and it would also scale down its global influence and advocacy for human rights, the rule of law and democracy. Further, the US move will make the state of Israel more vulnerable at the UNO,and the US recantation from the UNHRC has established that there are profound doubts about the US commitment to multilateralism.
US Law on International Treaty Obligations
The incumbent US President advocates a review of all multilateral agreements and treaties except treaties on extradition, security,and trade. However, he does not like trade treaties due to his belief in US domestic trade protectionist policies.Under the US law, the ratification of the international treaty is extremely cumbersome. Legally speaking, there are three kinds of international agreements in the US. The US Senate ratifies a treaty by two-thirds of the majority. A US Congressional-Executive Agreement requires only a majority of the both the houses of the Congress. However, US President has the capacity to make a sole Executive Agreement himself,and he can also terminate an international treaty at will as well as congressional agreements. But such a situation of exercise of presidential powers have been examined by the US Supreme Court in Goldwater v. Carter, [444 U.S. 996 (1979)] when President Jimmy Carter acted without Congressional approbation and unilaterally terminated a defense treaty with Taiwan that raised a question with regard to the constitutional role of US Congress to play in the termination of the treaty. The President Carter reasoned that since Congress had not formally challenged his authority, therefore, technically the case was not justiciable. The US Supreme Court judges were divided,and they found that the case involved a political question as per the Justice Rehnquist who led a group of four justices. Whereas Justice Powell was of the opinion that the impugned case was not fit for the judicial review.However, the dissenter justices in the matter were willing to hear the case as the US Congress opposed Carter’s action. Similarly, the Goldwater situation may be replicated if the incumbent US President Trump tomorrow decides to pull out of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and US Congress challenges the powers of the US President in this regard while voting to stay in the NATO. But such a situation would warrant the Court intervention to resolve the question of separation of powers between two political wings.
The Iran Nuclear Deal is a global but limited political arrangement whereas the Paris Climate Pact is a sole executive agreement and President Trump withdrew from it under the US Law. However, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is a better and faster option to retract from its commitments. But the majority of the US states would remain committed to the COP 21 arrangements.On the other hand, NAFTA is a regional treaty,and its implementation depends on the domestic statute and subject to the objection of the US Congress and its overriding by the President.Therefore, there is a necessity of a balanced approach to address the existing treaties in the US. However, the many human rights Conventions have not been ratified by the US government such as 1989 UN Convention on Rights of Child,but Trump is positive to ratify the 1979 UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. There is a question; is there the death of treaties if the statement of Oona Hathaway—Professor of Law of Yale Law School—is to be believed. But, unfortunately, today’s world is confronted with a US administration that embraces the diplomacy of URGENT for all kinds of entities and treaties.
Treaty Exit Trends
Notwithstanding of the probability of accomplishment of the US proposals for reforming the UNHRC is an important trend in the international law. However, the Brexit of June 23, 2016, is regarded as the most well-known example of this trend that is perceived as a nationalist impetus in the UK. Since 2012, as many as eight nation-states have exited the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) attributing the lack of efficiency. In 2016, President of the Philippines Duterte threatened to pull out of UNO due to the UN castigation of extra-judicial killings in the Philippines. Similarly, African Union in principle has endorsed the mass withdrawal from the International Criminal Court. Thus, should international community accommodate such an anti-intergovernmental and anti-international treaty obligations trends in the contemporary world order as it is being wrongly encouraged by the US and it may turn out to be the death for international treaties.
The unilateral exit or unilateral denunciation of treaties remains highly contested question under international law. It is generally understood that treaty obligations terminate in both national and international law after a nation-state withdraws from the treaty. Treaty exit makes an impact on both legal systems but there are some treaty exits that divide the status of a treaty by closing its obligations in the municipal legal system but continuing its obligations under international law. But in case of human rights obligations, such a division of treaty exit is not tenable as human rights obligations are protected under the customary international law (CIL) and the US cannot escape from its international human rights obligations under the CIL.
The US has been compromising its diplomatic decency, international integrity, and global human rights credentials that would lead the US towards in state of diplomatic darkness. The state behaviour of the US has established that it does not have any respect for its international human rights obligations. Such US measures are bound to create a New World minus the US due to its blind love for Israel that has been committing war crimes against humanity of Palestine, circumventing the international law and violating the purpose and principles of the UN Charter. But there is still some global optimism left provided Haley’s advocacy of US reform proposal is reconsidered in the current year,i.e. 2018 itself.The US Courts exercise their powers of interpretation by not allowing the US Congress to violate the US’s international human rights obligations. A self-executing treaty provision is the paramount US law that has same status available to a federal statute which is justiciable by the private parties. The US as a liberal, multicultural and cosmopolitan nation-state has to espouse its human rights obligations under international law along with their socio-economic, geopolitical, and diplomatic costs.The US commitment to human rights space in Global South face a critical juncture between US-led “Israel-induced Push” and universal “UNHRC-institutional Trust” that can outpace the hegemonic and imperial tendencies of the overriding US national interests.Therefore, it is equally desirable that the US must have the negotiations based on the strengthening the UNHRC institutional framework to establish its global commitment to human rights.
Russia-Ukraine War, China and World Peace
On May 3, when asked about the possible causes of the Ukrainian tragedy, His Holiness Pope Francis speculated about an “anger” probably “facilitated initially by NATO’s barking at Russia’s door. I cannot say whether this anger was provoked, but it was probably facilitated”.
What do the Pope’s words mean? In short, they mean that in international relations – of which the Holy See is Master of the Art – two things count: respect for the other and ignorance. The former is to be always placed as a founding element of peace, the latter is to be eradicated, especially in countries like Italy and in many others, as a factor of war.
Why was the Soviet Union respected and why the same respect and consideration is not owed to Russia? Why with the Soviet Union, after the normalisation of the Prague Spring, did a still divided but wise Europe (today, instead, united only by the banks’ and bankers’ money) and a sharp-witted West, with Russia’s agreement, launch the Helsinki Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe? Why instead did a powerless Europe, a semi-colony of the United States of America – with the UK as the 51st star on its flag – together with the White House, pretend not to see what was happening in Ukraine? Why did they turn a blind eye to this conflict, which has been going on since 2014, and fomented the rise to power of people who, by inciting hatred against Russia, were under the illusion that NATO would come to their aid, turning Europe into a pool of blood for their purposes?
Do some people probably believe that Russia is still that of Yeltsin, ready to open up – in every sense – to the first master coming along? These are the cases in which respect is lacking and ignorance triumphs.
As to an example of ongoing and consistent respect in foreign affairs, it is useful to comment on a recent speech delivered on April 21 by China’s President Xi Jinping, which developed several points.
He pointed out that, for over two years, the international community has made strenuous efforts to meet the challenge of COVID-19 and promote economic recovery and development in the world. He added that the difficulties and challenges show that the international community has a shared future for better or for worse, and that the various countries must strive for peace, development, and win-win cooperation so as to work together and tackle the different problems that gradually emerge on the scene.
With a view to facing the health emergency, China has provided over 2.1 billion vaccine doses to over 120 countries and international organisations and it will continue to make the pledged donations of 600 million doses to African countries and 150 million doses to the countries of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to proactively help bridge the vaccine gap.
With specific reference to the economic recovery, President Xi Jinping pledged to keep on building an economy open to the world, strengthening macroeconomic policy coordination and preserving the stability of industrial and supply chains, as well as promoting balanced, coordinated and inclusive development globally. He said: “People need to be put first and development and social welfare must be prioritised. It is important to promote pragmatic studies in priority areas such as poverty reduction, security, food, development finance and industrialisation, as well as work on solving the issue of unbalanced and insufficient development, and move forward by establishing job creation initiatives.”
With regard to the recent war clashes, President Xi Jinping deems necessary to jointly safeguard world peace and security. I wish to add that the Cold War-style mentality – what is happening in Ukraine, i.e. the West disrespecting Russia, considering it an enemy as in the past, but not as strong as in the days of the CPSU – can only undermine world peace. Hegemonism aimed at conquering Eurasia – as the land that holds the remaining raw materials on the planet – and the policy of the strongest country can only undermine world peace. The clash of blocs can only worsen the security challenges of the 21st century.
Why, while the Warsaw Pact (of which the People’s Republic of China was never a member and never wanted to be a member) was dissolved, did the same not happen with NATO? China has always wanted to promote world peace, never wanting to be part of aggressive and barking alliances.
China pledges to advance the vision of common, integrated, cooperative and sustainable security and to jointly preserve world peace and security. It pledges to respect all countries’ sovereignty and territorial integrity; to pursue non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs, and to respect the development path and social system chosen by peoples. It pledges to abide by the aims and principles of the UN Charter; to reject the warmongering mentality (opposing the good countries by default vs. the bad ones conventionally); to oppose unilateralism and to reject the policy of bloc confrontation. China takes all countries’ security concerns and legitimate interests into account. It pursues the principle of indivisible responsibilities and builds a balanced and effective security architecture. It opposes one country seeking its own security by fomenting insecurities in the others. China seeks dialogue and consultation, as well as peaceful solutions to inter-State differences and disputes. It supports all efforts for the peaceful settlement of crises. It refrains from double standards and rejects the arbitrary use of unilateral extraterritorial sanctions and jurisdictions.
It is crucial to adopt a comprehensive approach to maintain security and respond together to regional disputes and planetary challenges such as terrorism, climate change, cybersecurity and biosecurity.
Global governance challenges must be addressed together. The world countries are on an equal footing when it comes to sharing fortunes and misfortunes. It is unacceptable to try to throw anyone overboard. The international community is currently a sophisticated and integrated device. Removing one of its components makes it very difficult for it to function, to the detriment of the party that is deprived by others of its own guarantees that call into question the very existence of a State – such as trying to deploy nuclear warheads a few kilometres from a capital city.
Only the principles of broad consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits can promote the common values of humanity, foster exchanges and inspire reciprocity between different civilisations. No one should believe to be better than another by divine grace or manifest destiny.
True and genuine multilateralism must be pursued and the international system centred on the United Nations and the world order based on international law must firmly be preserved. Great countries, in particular, must set an example in terms of respect for equality, cooperation, credibility and the rule of law to be worthy of their greatness.
In ten years of President Xi Jinping’s leadership, Asia has maintained overall stability and achieved fast and sustained growth, thus creating the “Asian miracle”. If Asia does well, the whole world will benefit. Asia has continued to strive to develop, build and maintain its strength, i.e. the basic wisdom that makes the continent a stabilising anchor of peace, an engine of growth and a pioneer of international cooperation.
These achievements come from as far back as the aforementioned Chinese refusal to join aggressive military blocs. They are based on the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence drafted by Prime Minister Zhou Enlai on December 31, 1953, published on April 29, 1954, and reaffirmed at the Bandung Conference on April 18-24, 1955: (i) mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty; (ii) mutual non-aggression; (iii) mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs; (iv) equality and cooperation for mutual benefit; (v) peaceful coexistence.
They are based on the Eight Principles for Foreign Aid and Economic and Technical Assistance proposed by the aforementioned Zhou Enlai before the Somali Parliament on February 3, 1964, which became the emblem of China’s presence in Africa: (i) China always bases itself on the principle of equality and mutual benefit in providing aid to other nations; (ii) China never attaches any conditions or asks for any privileges; (iii) China helps lighten the burden of recipient countries as much as possible; (iv) China aims at helping recipient countries to gradually achieve self-reliance and independent development; (v) China strives to develop aid projects that require less investment but yield quicker results; (vi) China provides the best-quality equipment and materials of its own manufacture; (vii) in providing technical assistance, China shall ensure that the personnel of the recipient country fully master such techniques; (viii) Chinese experts are not allowed to make any special demands or enjoy any special amenities.
Over the last ten years President Xi Jinping has successfully applied the Chinese doctrine in international relations, following and implementing his country’s multi-millennial traditions of diplomacy. ASEAN’s central place and role in the regional architecture has been strengthened in Asia, preserving the order that takes all parties’ aspirations and interests into account. Each country, whether large or small, powerful or weak, inside or outside the region, contributes to the success of Asia’s development, without creating war frictions. Each country follows the path of peace and development, promotes win-win cooperation and builds a large family of Asian progress.
The ASEAN countries are the following: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam (Papua New Guinea and East Timor as observers).
Furthermore, the fundamentals of China’s economy – its strong resilience, huge potential, ample room for manoeuvre and long-term sustainability – remain unchanged. They will provide great dynamism for the stability and recovery of the world economy and wider market opportunities for all countries.
The People’s Republic of China will be fully committed to its new development rationale. It will step up the establishment of a new growth paradigm, and redouble its efforts for high-quality development. China will promote high standards; expand the catalogue for the creation of new computer software; improve investment promotion services and add more cities to the comprehensive pilot programme for opening up the service sector.
China will take concrete steps to develop its pilot free trade zones and the Hainan Free Trade Port will be in line with high-standard international economic and trade rules and will move forward with the institutional opening process.
China will seek to conclude high-level free trade agreements with more countries and regions and will proactively endeavour to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA).
China is moving forward with the Silk Road (Belt and Road) cooperation to make it increasingly high-level, sustainable and people-centred. China will firmly follow the path of peaceful development and will always be a builder of world peace, as well as a contributor to global development and a defender of the international order.
Over the last ten years, under President Xi Jinping’s leadership, the People’s Republic of China has been following the old Chinese saying: “Keep walking and you will not be discouraged by a thousand miles; make steady efforts and you will not be intimidated by a thousand tasks”.
The More Things Change…
The brutality of ethnic cleansing is complete. It does not distinguish between mother and son, young and old, child or adult. It goes about its gruesome business without conscience or moral compensation. It is the conversion of man into an unthinking beast. It is Putin, Zelensky, Modi and Xi Jinping … all rolled into one. It is us. The seed is there, needing only fertile soil to germinate.
The EU announces more aid to Ukraine — mostly military aid; the US announces more aid to Ukraine — mostly military aid. The Ukrainians saying ‘we will never surrender’ continue to fight. The Russians asking for talks are not backing down. Ukraine’s real value to the world is as an exporter of grain which helps to stabilize grain prices. Feeding a war therefore, runs counter to such stability.
On the heels of covid and its inflationary fallout, who wants a rise in food prices? Not India, not Africa, not the EU and Russians are already feeling the pinch. Perhaps grain exporters in North America could be an exception. Yet at what cost?
According to the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, the Security Council failed to prevent the war or to end it. How can it when the most influential member and its European allies are busy funding it?
Human strife is displayed on almost every continent. Stone throwing at ultra-nationalists by Palestinians after Friday prayers is a routine accompanied sometimes by tragedy. One side provokes, the other side retaliates. Stones are thrown, fights breakout. The authorities respond and more Palestinians are killed — fifteen last Wednesday. Is this the big story in Israel? Of course not.
A TV report accused millionaire Naftali Bennet, the current prime minister, of extravagant expenditure from the public purse at his home, which currently serves as his official residence.
Mr. Bennett disclosed that $26,400 of taxpayer money was spent on his home each month including a $7,400 food bill. His defense avers that his conduct is within the rules and that his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu spent, on average, $84,300 per month during his tenure.
Noting his efforts at parsimony, he pointed out he did not employ a cook as he is entitled to. Instead, the family sent out to restaurants, presumably the best ones, to have food delivered. Sensitive to the criticism, he states he will henceforth pay for all the food from his own picket.
Sara Netanyahu, his predecessor’s wife, had to admit misusing public funds during a similar scandal and was obliged to pay a $15,000 fine. The prime minister is paid $16,500 per month — average monthly salary in Israel is $3,500.
Plus ça change …
China, the Arctic, and International Law
The Arctic involves the interests of several major international actors, and climate change, which necessitates the search for more resources and increases the availability of resources in the region, makes the region more important than ever. In this regard, states are divided into “Arctic states” and “non-Arctic states,” with the former having territorial sovereignty and jurisdiction over the region and the latter not. Nonetheless, non-Arctic states have certain rights, such as freedom of navigation in the Arctic states’ EEZs, as granted by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Xinmin, 2019). Parts of the region that are not under the sovereignty of any state are referred to as the “common heritage of mankind.” Because of its appeal, the region attracts states that are not in the Arctic Circle, with China being one of the most interested. China’s interest in the region can be explained by the country’s need for more resources. First, food security issues are likely to arise in China in the near future, and they must be addressed. Fish resources in the South China Sea have been steadily declining, and China must replace them. Second, China, which relies heavily on imported energy sources, is aware of the growing hostility toward itself and may face a blockage of vital energy resources if the situation worsens. Access to more Arctic sources may assist China in diversifying its risk (Francis, 2020).
Initially, the United States, Canada, and Russia saw China’s interest in the region as a threat to their territorial sovereignty. China joined the Arctic Council as an observer after officially recognizing Arctic states’ territorial sovereignty over the region (Arctic Council, 2021). Observers have limited rights in comparison to member states, which are all littoral states. Observers, for example, do not have the right to vote, and their participation in projects is not always possible (Ghattas, 2013). Nonetheless, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) allows China to participate in fisheries decision-making processes, specifically the catch limit (Francis, 2020). In fact, China participated in the Agreement to Prevent High Seas Fisheries in the Central Arctic Ocean to ban commercial fishing for 16 years in 2018 (Francis, 2020). In addition to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, relevant treaties include the UN Charter, International Maritime Organization rules, environmental treaties, and domestic laws of Arctic States (Xinmin, 2019).
In 2018, China published a White Paper outlining its Arctic ambitions. According to the White Paper, China is an active participant in Arctic governance and will remain committed to all relevant treaties and agreements. China has stated unequivocally that it has no intention of challenging any Arctic state and intends to cooperate in the peaceful use of the region (Xinmin, 2019). The White Paper was most memorable for China’s self-description as a “near-Arctic” state, emphasizing China’s geographical proximity to the Arctic Circle. It may imply that China associates itself with a new category that could be used to legitimize its actions in the region. However, former US State Secretary Mike Pompeo criticized this statement, claiming that there were only Arctic and non-Arctic states, implying that the category of “near Arctic” did not exist and did not entitle China to any special rights. Although other Arctic states did not respond positively to the statement, several of them, including Canada and Russia, indicated a willingness to cooperate with China and eventually accept Chinese investments. China is eager to invest in natural resource extraction, scientific research, and infrastructure. China has already invested more than $90 billion, and one of its major projects is the “Polar Silk Road,” an extension of the BRI.
As of now, China has not committed any serious violations of the law in the Arctic. However, experts are divided on whether China will violate international law in the Arctic. One of the arguments is that China is likely to violate the law because it has already violated it in numerous cases, including the South China Sea dispute. Despite the fact that the United Nations has labeled China’s actions in the South China Sea as aggressive, China has largely ignored criticisms. (Francis, 2020). Therefore, supporters of the first argument believe that there will be nothing to stop a country from breaking the law if it prefers to ignore international institutions in some cases. Another argument is that the situation in the Arctic is vastly different from the situation in the South China Sea, and thus it is unreasonable to expect China to engage in similar activities (Buchanan & Strating, 2020). First, there are other great powers in the Arctic region, such as Russia and the United States, which creates a balance of power. Second, the Arctic is governed harmoniously by the Arctic Council through a series of agreements and treaties, whereas the South China Sea has long been a source of contention. Finally, while China is very close to the South China Sea and could potentially expand its territory there, it is not a littoral state in the Arctic and would not be interested in claiming territory in such a remote and logistically difficult region.
For the time being, the second argument appears more convincing because China has been following the law in the region. However, it is difficult to predict how it will act in the face of adversity. Climate change appears to be ongoing, and global warming is likely to allow access to even more resources in the Arctic. Furthermore, climate change is one of the factors that is expected to contribute to food insecurity (WEF, 2022). In that case, competition for the Arctic will inevitably intensify. China has already made investments in the region and declared itself a “near-Arctic state,” implying that it has long-term plans for the region. Therefore, China’s demands and actions need to be taken seriously. Although cooperation in the Arctic is encouraged, tolerance for violations of international law in the region by any state may weaken stability and increase the likelihood of conflict in the long run. To be able to rise smoothly in the Arctic, China must adopt an inclusive strategy and think beyond its own interests, as several major international actors have stakes in the matter (Liu, 2020).
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