Revisiting the Implications of the South China Sea Arbitration: An Arctic Perspective

Yuanyuan Ren
Vol. 30
May 2024
Page 23

This article examines the implications of the South China Sea Arbitration (“the SCS Arbitration”) for the governance of the Arctic Ocean. It argues that the SCS Arbitration award is more than a “piece of paper” and carries important implications for assessing and resolving maritime disputes and disagreements in the Arctic, especially regarding four maritime issues: (1) the historic claims in the Arctic Ocean, (2) the legal status of maritime features in the Arctic Ocean, (3) the application of straight baselines to outlying archipelagos in the Arctic Ocean, and (4) the adjudication of Arctic maritime disputes in international courts and tribunals.


In the Arctic Ocean, many claims and practices of several Arctic states are arguably inconsistent with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the findings of the SCS Arbitration Tribunal. Several Arctic states have endorsed the SCS Arbitration award and called for China and the Philippines to abide by it. However, they have not altered their own practices in light of the SCS Arbitration ruling. This doublestandard approach to international law is not new in many states’ practices but constitutes a significant challenge for constraining maritime states’ creeping claims in the sea all around the world. Taken together, by revisiting some key maritime disagreements in the Arctic Ocean in light of the SCS Arbitration award, this article offers critical insights into current opportunities and challenges for constraining powerful states’ expansion in the sea.

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