North Sea Route: Zone of cooperation, not confrontation
The North Sea Route is Russia’s transport route, and it is interested in the development of its national transport corridor, Russian experts said, answering to a strange statement of Yuan Tzuntze, a researcher from the China Institute of International Studies, who believes that the North Sea Route is a common property and that individual states have no right to control it.
In recent times Chinese experts have often stressed that China is interested in the Arctic Region. Meaning not only its scientific interest but also the fact that China regards it as a very important sphere of its military and strategic interests. An expert with the Dalian Maritime University, Li Chzhen Fu, said that the use of the Arctic shipping route may provide China with ample opportunity as a strategic transport corridor. Russia’s control of the North Sea Route is unquestionable, an expert with the Russian Maritime Law Centre, Vasily Gutsulyak says:
"This is a national transport route of Russia, which has been under its control since time immemorial. Among other things, Russia ensures the hydrotechnical regime in the zone of the North Sea Route as well as marine pilot services. There’s also a special body - the administration of the North Sea Route - which regulates shipping there."
At the same time, the Russian expert said that outside the 200 Mile Exclusive Economic Zone any country, including China, has the right to carry out free shipping. However, this can’t be done because sea surface there is covered with ice all year round. And if China wants to use this route it has to negotiate with Russia, continues Vasily Gutsulyak.
"Talks remain the most civilized and the most preferable option. Russia has signed many bilateral agreements on the North Sea Route, and an agreement with China is also possible. However, it is somewhat premature now to speak about a universal international treaty on the development of the Arctic Region because the Arctic states are not in agreement on that score at the moment."
The Arctic resources are another aspect of this problem. More than 95 of them are in the Exclusive Economic Zones. And as regards the non-Arctic states, their interest in these resources as well as in the North Sea Route is understandable but they do not have the final say here.
It is clear that China’s interest in the North Sea Route as well as in the Arctic resources will grow as its positions in the world are becoming more strengthened. Meanwhile, the global positioning of Russia is also linked to the strengthening of its presence in that region. Today it has a good chance to become a new site for the Russia-China cooperation, taking into account the strategic character of Moscow-Beijing partnership.