Chapter 26: Asian states and the Arctic: national perspectives on regional governance
The tremendous changes taking place in the Arctic have attracted worldwide attention, often to the discomfort of Arctic states and peoples. The growing interest of Asian states in Arctic regional issues is clear evidence of this trend. When China, India, Japan, Singapore and South Korea applied for permanent observer status on the Arctic Council in 2009, their interest met with concern in several quarters amidst worries about China’s belligerence in its own claimed maritime areas, and because of the misperception that China claims some portion of the Arctic Ocean (Chang 2010). In addition come wrinkles over the European Union’s bid for Arctic Council observer status, and the growing global attentiveness to Arctic issues more generally. For all these reasons, recent scholarship has focused on potential hidden agendas of non-Arctic states (particularly China) vis-a-vis the region’s resource potential (Jakobson 2010; Lasserre 2010; Wright 2011). This chapter surveys Asian states’ national interests and ambitions in the Arctic and how these relate to governance, with particular emphasis on the Arctic Council and the Nuuk criteria for observer status. The accreditation of China, South Korea, Japan, India and Singapore as Arctic Council observers in May 2013 signalled acceptance by the Arctic states and the Permanent Participants that Asian states have legitimate interests in and contributions to make to the dialogue (Arctic Council Secretariat 2013, p. 6).
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