China views US non signatory status to UNCLOS as a liability it can exploit to gain access to Arctic resources
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The 2009 article that started the series on Arctic issues in the Journal of the Ocean Uni- versity of China, “Research on the Issue of Arctic Environmental Law from the Point of View of International Law,” by Liu Huirong and Yang Fan of Ocean University’s School of Law and Political Science, is from start to finish an examination of environmental and legal issues pertaining to the Arctic.26 It contains no substantial discussion of specifically Chinese interests in the Arctic and does not regard or treat Arctic environmental issues as representing a legal or diplomatic back door through which China could enter the Arctic and then throw its weight around geopolitically.
Liu and Yang bemoan the present lack of a comprehensive international Arctic treaty, and consider extensively the reasons for the “fragmentation of international law” as it pertains to the Arctic environment. They also discuss at some length the contradictions among various treaties and instruments of environmental law, as well as between na- tional and international law. They then give suggestions for resolving these conflicts.27 In their conclusion they express optimism about UNCLOS as the best means for balancing international interests, characterizing the U.S. refusal to accede to the convention as an American liability:
Looking far and wide at the legal documents which can resolve disputes related to the Arctic and how each state implements them, [it is our opinion that] UNCLOS is the most effective path for balancing the rights and interests among each of the signatory Arctic states. In the present disputes, with the exception of the United States, all other countries have already ratified UNCLOS. As a nonsignatory state to UNCLOS, in the midst of the disputes over resources which are growing fiercer by the day, the United States is meet- ing up with risks and hazards [regarding access to] the rich resources of several thousand square kilometers of continental shelf. The position of the U.S. as a nonsignatory state in reality impedes its protection of its maritime interests. To protect their rights and interests in the Arctic region, every state has started paying serious attention to UNCLOS and hopes to find in it the legal basis for supporting its positions, this in order to win advantageous positions in international court decisions and obtain the recognition of international society.
Russia, Denmark, Norway, and Canada are staking their claims to Arctic resources but the United States, which has conducted research on how far the continental shelf extends from Alaska toward the North Pole, cannot submit any of its evidence because it is not a party to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).