It is a matter of high interest for the entire world to see how the melting of the Arctic ice cap in combination with developments in other places regarding future energy security is fuelling a fiction between a good number of countries.
During the cold war, the Arctic was a security flashpoint with the US and Soviet nuclear submarines patrolling under the North Pole and bombers airborne over the region. With times changing, the role of the Arctic has also changed quite a lot. Countries which have military interest in this region and in the Arctic are Russia, Canada, Norway, Denmark and the US. Russia also grabbed attention with the Chilingarov expedition planting a Russian flag on the sea bed under the North Pole.
Scientists have claimed that the Arctic region has over 25% of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas reserves. Therefore, a number of other countries apart from those located in the region are also taking a keen interest in this area. Countries from outside the region like UK, France, Germany, China, Japan and South Korea are looking up to this region to get additional supplies of oil and gas. The country which is ahead of all other countries in this race is the Socialist Republic of China which is emerging as a major power outside the Arctic zone.
To explore the reserves at the Arctic to get an access to the sea route through the Arctic ocean, China is looking at all options to get an entry into the Arctic Council. And the entire world knows that seeing the present growth of the country, China is not going to be satisfied by even having access to all existing energy resources. And it is quite evident that it will be extremely difficult to deter China. The country is also not hiding its goals at the Arctic.
Earlier, around two years back a diplomatic incident took place which also changed a lot in regards with the Arctic Council. Norway and China had been actively developing their bilateral ties and among other things, a lot of dialogue also took place about the observing membership of China in the Arctic Council. Things so developed that Norway also started talking about supporting China’s permanent candidacy in the council.
Things, however, changed when Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The decision of the Nobel committee caused a host of protests in Beijing. This led to the relations going sour between the two countries who were earlier working on to make harmonious relations with each other.
A recently released report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute says that China might be pursuing its geopolitical interests in the Arctic. It is not hidden that China has long sought access to Greenland to share in its wealth of rare earths and minerals like zinc, iron ore, uranium, lead and gemstones.
As China further multiplies and grows its economic growth and military capacity building, suspicions about the country’s intentions in the Arctic are also gaining momentum. With China eyeing a candidacy at the Arctic Council, which is an eight country intergovernmental forum dedicated to questions concerning the region, it has said in the past that it wants a seat as an observer in the council.
However, things do not remain as rosy as they seemed earlier. Although China has repeatedly said that it does not have a clear Arctic theory, it is evident that the country has a clear policy for this region.
Apprehensions have been growing as the Chinese presence in the continent is rapidly increasing. In fact, to gain momentum in the region, a Chinese businessman is looking to buy a big chunk of land in Iceland. It is evident that China is no longer satisfied with just being a strategic partner of the region and wants a slice for itself. The country is taking over European companies, increasing European treasury bond holdings, and is even investing in various infrastructure in Europe’s periphery. China is working quite well to improve its relations with the Nordic countries and wants to magnify its say in the Arctic politics through enhanced cooperation with other East Asian economies.
China, which has remained quite aloof till now is suddenly making up with the entire Arctic zone. With so much development happening inside the country, the country is indeed concerned about its energy supplies. As it is, it is known to the world how China wants to develop itself as a single most powerful nation in the entire region and is fuelling this mighty aspiration through various means.
With Norway now opposing China’s candidacy in the Arctic Council, it is sure that China is looking up to other nations present in the region for support. With bilateral talks with Canada, the country is aiming at improving its chances of being a strong contender in the council.
It is anybody’s guess that China is not leaving any stone unturned to become a part of the Arctic Council so that it can gain both from the sea route and the oil reserves and fuel its economic growth. Although, it cannot openly come out with its intentions of accessing the reserves hidden under this ice covered region, it is trying by all means to convince the entire community for the same.
On behalf of the team of the Oslo Times, I want to bring this point forward that the communist country should put a stop to its ambitions in the Council. It is time that the dragon should pull back and remember that it does not originally belong to the region. China should not forget that it does not belong to the region and should be content with what is available for it in the free spirit of the council instead of lurching around to get the biggest chunk of the pie which already has a lot of buyers.