Beijing may be playing it cool, but it sees its current role in the contested High North as just the tip of the iceberg
Ryan Kilpatrick, South China Morning Post, 15 November 2016
WASHED by the shallow waters of the Tumen River that divides Russia and North Korea, China’s Hunchun has few tourist attractions other than a coin-operated set of binoculars, on an elevated platform, that lets the occasional visitor survey the three neighbours’ only junction. But if business expands along Arctic shipping routes linking the Atlantic and Pacific, this obscure city of little more than 200,000 could become “an international shipping centre equal to Singapore”, Xinhua, China’s state-run news agency, claimed last year.
China, having styled itself as a “near-Arctic nation”, is jockeying to play a greater role in the contested High North. Beijing attained permanent observer status to the intergovernmental Arctic Council in 2013, but experts say its ambitions are beyond those of a passive onlooker.
The hype over the Arctic recedes, along with the summer ice
The Economist, January 31, 2015
THE Arctic is hot,” joked a Swedish diplomat in 2012. Not any more. In the past six months, the trends that had made it a centre of global attention have changed. It still matters, mainly for environmental reasons. But a surge of interest in its economy and politics has ebbed.
Unlike Canada, Iceland seizes the opportunities that climate change creates.
TORONTO STAR / LINDA BARNARD
A sleek, contemporary portrayal of a Viking ship sits on the shores of Reykjavik. Canada can learn a great deal from both Icelanders and their Norse ancestors when it comes to boldness.
Michael Byers, Toronto Star, 28 October 2013
It’s hard to imagine Stephen Harper in an open boat, sailing boldly across a cold and stormy ocean in search of a New World.
The prime minister’s recent throne speech, which focused on cable TV packages and cellphone rates, was distinctly unambitious. It failed to even mention climate change, which scientists are warning could soon accelerate beyond control.
Harper’s “agreement in principle” on free trade with Europe was equally modest, just smoothening out a few wrinkled edges in a relationship long subject to the strictures of the WTO. It ducked the single biggest trade issue with Europe, which concerns the possibility of sanctions directed against the production and export of carbon-intensive fuels.
In contrast to Harper, Icelanders exhibit all the boldness of their Norse ancestors as they both confront the threat of climate change and seize the resulting opportunities.
MURMANSK, September 3 (RIA Novosti) - A naval task force from Russia’s Northern Fleet is heading to the eastern Arctic, a spokesperson for the fleet said Tuesday.
The voyage is part of the Defense Ministry’s program under Russia’s Arctic policy and is designed “to uphold Russia’s status as a leading arctic power, strengthen its security... and ensure national interests,” the spokesperson said.
In the 1990 thriller The Hunt for Red October, the rogue captain of a Soviet submarine evades the U.S. and Soviet navies by threading his way through a narrow – but precisely charted – mid-ocean trench.
In real life, the Soviet navy’s charting efforts extended to the heart of the Canadian Arctic. Soviet-era charts, available today, show more depth soundings in the Northwest Passage than Canada’s most recent charts do.
The Cold War is over, but Russia still takes the Arctic seriously. Russian nuclear-powered submarines still sail under the sea ice, where Canada’s diesel-powered submarines cannot venture.
The North Pole stands to become a viable international shipping route for some vessels in coming decades, as melting ice clears the way for cargo movement through corridors never before considered possible.
Arctic melting creates
new opportunities that China must cooperate with other countries to seize.
Wang Qian, China
Daily, 30 September 2012
China's fifth Arctic
expedition team suggested the country enhance cooperation with Arctic countries
to expand its research of Earth's northernmost region.
During the more than
80 days of expedition that started in July, the Chinese icebreaker Xuelong (Ice
Dragon) sailed the Northern Sea Route, also called the Northeast Passage. It
was escorted by the Russian nuclear icebreaker Vaygach, and both vessels
returned via what will become the Central Arctic Shipping Route.
The Arctic Ocean's coastline belongs mostly to Russia and Canada, the two largest countries in the world.
Each country owns territory on either side of a series of contested, and increasingly ice-free, Arctic straits. Russia considers the narrowest parts of the Northern Sea Route to be "internal waters." Canada takes the same view of the Northwest Passage. Internal waters are not territorial waters, and foreign ships have no right to access them without permission from the coastal state.
Russia and Canada face a single, common source of opposition to their claims — namely, the United States, which insists that both the Northern Sea Route and the Northwest Passage are "international straits."