Roles of Asian Observers in Arctic Governance: Adapting to a Changing Arctic Council


Date: April 13th, 2023 | 7:30-9:00am MT
Duration: 90 minutes via ZOOM

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Event Summary


Climate change has increased accessibility to potential Arctic resources, changing the geopolitical landscape and broadening the international focus on the Arctic to include more geographically distant countries such as China, Japan, South Korea, India, and Singapore. Seeking observer status in the Arctic Council is regarded by these Asian countries to be an important step towards ensuring that they are involved in determining the future of the Arctic; a region which they believe will influence their economic interests and global environmental concerns.

Triggered by the Ukraine conflict, the March 2022 joint statement by the Arctic Council states to pause participation in all meetings of the Arctic Council indicates grave impediments to international cooperation in the Arctic. So long as this statement is in play, the premier forum for Arctic governance, which tended to be immune from geopolitical tensions, can no longer function in its consensus-based format. This subsequently opened up an ongoing debate on the future of the Arctic Council.

What does the suspension of the Arctic Council meetings mean for Arctic Council observers? Will Norway, who will take over the chairmanship in May 2023, make any progress to break through the current ties? Will the debate on the concept of an “Arctic Council 2.0” gain support among non-Arctic states who have a deep interest in Arctic governance? Will non-Arctic countries such as China, Japan, South Korea, India, and Singapore — which have growing Arctic interests and have contributed much to Arctic research —welcome the opportunity for them to establish a more solid role in this region’s affairs? How will the observers adapt to a changing Arctic Council?

This event will bring together scholars from the five Asian observers of the Arctic Council, China, Japan, South Korea, India, and Singapore to exchange their views on this important issue.





Interim Director, China Institute, University of Alberta

Jia Wang is currently the Interim Director of the China Institute at the University of Alberta, where she manages research, programs, and government and media relations since 2011. Jia has over 15 years of direct management experience focusing on the economic and political dimensions of contemporary China and Canada-China relations in various capacities. At the China Institute, in addition to overseeing the operations, she leads policy research initiatives examining Canada's diplomatic, trade, investment and energy linkages with China. Jia also provides strategic and policy advice on China to University senior leaders as well as executives at public and private sector organizations. She is a frequent media commentator, speaker and moderator at community, national and international events.




Executive Director, Institute for China-America Studies

Dr. Nong HONG holds a PhD of interdisciplinary study of international law and international relations from the University of Alberta, Canada and held a Postdoctoral Fellowship in the University’s China Institute. She was ITLOS-Nippon Fellow for International Dispute Settlement and Visiting Fellow at Australian National Centre for Ocean Resources and Security, the Center of Oceans Law and Policy, University of Virginia, and at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law. She is concurrently a research fellow with China Institute, University of Alberta, Canada, and the National Institute for South China Sea Studies. She is also a China Forum expert.


Olga Alexeeva


Senior Fellow and Deputy Director, Institute for Global Governance Studies, Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, China

ZHAO Long is a senior fellow and the deputy director of the Institute for Global Governance Studies at Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, the Council Member of China National Association for International Studies. ZHAO graduated from the law faculty at Moscow State University of Russia, receiving a BSc in jurisprudence and a MA in international law, and received his Ph.D. in law from East China Normal University. His research focuses on Global governance, Russian and Central Asian studies, and Arctic affairs, published academic articles and commentaries widely. ZHAO was a visiting scholar of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington D.C  and the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) in Berlin. From 2015 to 2016, ZHAO was on secondment to the Department of Treaty and Law at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China.



Research Fellow, Ocean Policy Research Institute of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, Japan

Sakiko HATAYA is Research Fellow at the Ocean Policy Research Institute of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation. Her research is centered on the Law of International Organization, and Polar Law. She has studied functions of the Arctic Council.



KIM Wonhee

Senior Researcher, Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology, South Korea

KIM Wonhee is a Senior Researcher of the Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology (KIOST). Prior to joining the KIOST, he was a senior researcher of Korea Maritime Institute and a Secretary in Chief of the Korean Society of International Law. He also has taught public international law and judicial settlement of international disputes at Konkuk University, Ewha Womans University and Korea National Open University. His research interests include the law of the sea, territorial and boundary dispute, maritime security, and the law and practice of international courts and tribunals. Recent publications include “Re-conceptualization of the Critical Date in Territorial Disputes in the Light of the Law of Evidence before the International Courts and Tribunals”(2020), “The Limits and Roles of International Law in the Disputes between Ukraine and Russia over Crimean Peninsular”(2021), and “Challenges to the UNCLOS Regime by Sea-level Rise and Its Implications for the Ocean Law and Policy”(2022).


Anurag BISEN

Research Fellow, Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, India

Captain Anurag BISEN is a serving Indian Navy officer with almost 35 years of service. A submariner, he has commanded a Kilo Class missile submarine. He joined the MP-IDSA after an extended tenure in the National Security Council Secretariat, where he worked on maritime issues, including maritime boundary and legal issues, the Indo-Pacific, the Indian Ocean region, maritime and coastal security, and Polar issues. He was instrumental in drafting and winning approval of India’s Arctic Policy, released in March 2022. He is a graduate of the Defence Services Staff College and holds a bachelor’s degree in Law, a master’s in Telecom, and a Russian language diploma from Arkhangelsk State University, Russia. 


Christopher LEN

Independent Scholar, Singapore

Dr. Christopher LEN is an independent scholar based in Singapore. He was a Senior Research Fellow and Head of Publications at the Energy Studies Institute, National University of Singapore from 2012 to 2022. His research focuses on Asian energy and maritime security issues, regional infrastructure connectivity, Chinese foreign policy, as well as the growing political and economic linkages between the various Asian sub-regions. He also has an interest in the Arctic region, focusing on energy policy-related issues in the Arctic which are also of relevance to the wider world — from the governance of sustainable energy transition, to energy access in remote locations, maritime infrastructures and shipping and issues related to innovation, resilience and capacity-building. Christopher obtained his PhD from the Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law and Policy (CEPMLP) at the University of Dundee in Scotland where he was awarded the Dean’s Medal for Research. He also has degrees from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland and Uppsala University, Sweden.