Bigger Chinese role sought in the Arctic

Updated: 2014-02-18 07:42

By Zhou Wa (China Daily USA)

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Denmark welcomes China being more involved in the Arctic, particularly in sectors such as mining, fishing and sea route development.

Danish Arctic Ambassador Erik Vilstrup Lorenzen and Greenlandic Deputy Foreign Minister Kai Holst Andersen made the remarks in an interview with China Daily in Beijing on Monday.

They are in China seeking more opportunities for cooperation, focusing on fishing products, mining and scientific research.

Andersen said they are communicating with two Chinese companies about mining cooperation in Greenland, including a copper company in Jiangxi province.

"If this cooperation can succeed, that could be an example for other Chinese companies that want to cooperate with Greenland," Andersen said.

"We are not a mining nation today. But we are definitely a mining nation of the future," said Anderson.

Greenland is part of the Kingdom of Denmark. According to the deputy foreign minister, 90 percent of Greenland's exports are seafood products.

Bigger Chinese role sought in the Arctic

China's huge market is very important for the island, and it hopes China can get more involved in the projects, he said. China and the kingdom can also cooperate in scientific research such as the study of ice sheets, he added.

Denmark has established several research stations as well as launched several polar expeditions to develop a better understanding and knowledge of the Arctic. China has only one research station in the Arctic, the Yellow River Station.

China and Denmark can work together to explore new sea routes, said Lorenzen, who is in charge of the country's Arctic policies and affairs.

According to scientific research, the Arctic is expected to become ice-free in coming decades as temperatures there rise twice as fast as in the rest of the world. So there is an increasing possibility of a much shorter commercial sea route and a longer navigable period in the Arctic Ocean.

"The shorter and safer sea route through the Arctic means lower costs for shipping companies and a shorter distance from China to trading partners like Europe," said Xia Yishan, a researcher on energy strategies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"Cheaper shipping would also reduce the cost of the region's natural resources and help deliver them to the international market more easily," said Jia Xiudong, a senior researcher on international affairs at the China Institute of International Studies.

China doesn't have any Arctic coastline, but it is keen to cooperate with those countries that do.

Cooperation between China and Denmark as well as other Arctic players can benefit both sides, analysts said.

"China's cooperation with Denmark in Arctic affairs can help promote local employment and increase the people's living standards," Xia said.

"Cooperation in natural resources could diversify and secure China's energy sources," Jia said.

Lorenzen and Andersen came to China amid suspicion about China's "ambition" in the resources-rich region, after it gained long-awaited observer status in the Arctic Council in May.

"China's energy cooperation with Denmark in the Arctic is similar to cooperation projects with other countries. China's interest and involvement in the Arctic are more for having options in case of emergency rather than resource plundering," Jia said.

In an earlier interview, Danish Ambassador Friis Arne Petersen said China has "natural and legitimate economic and scientific interests in the Arctic".

There are five nations with territory near the Arctic circle - Canada, Norway, Russia, the United States and Denmark (through Greenland).

The five nations are currently allotted an exclusive economic zone of 200 nautical miles from their northern coasts. In December, the Canadian government asked scientists to work on a submission to the United Nations, saying that the outer limits of Canada's territory include the North Pole.

Russia made a similar claim in 2001. Shortly after Ottawa's announcement, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russia's military to increase its focus on the Arctic.

Mo Jingxi contributed to this story.

(China Daily USA 02/18/2014 page6)