China welcomes Arctic Council’s granting of observer status

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt (4th from right), the current chair of the Arctic Council, speaks

during the Eighth Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council in Kiruna, Sweden, on May 15, 2013. China,

together with India, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea and Singapore, has been granted observer

status in the Arctic Council on May 15.  Photo by Jiang Zaixiang


Hong Lei, Foreign Ministry spokesman


By Hou Lijun

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on May 15 that China appreciates and welcomes the Arctic Council’s decision to grant permanent observer status to China.

India, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea (ROK) and Singapore were also granted observer status at the eighth Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council, which convened in Kiruna, the northernmost city of Sweden, on Wednesday of May 15.

“China has all along supported the purpose and objective of the Arctic Council,” Hong said in a written statement.

He said China recognizes the Arctic countries’ sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction in the Arctic area, as well as their leading role in the Arctic Council.

China respects the values, interests, culture and tradition of the Arctic aborigines and other inhabitants in the region, he added.

The council’s decision will enhance the communication and cooperation between China and relevant parties on Arctic affairs, and it will allow China to make contributions to the council’s work and promote peace, stability and sustainable development in the Arctic region, he said.

The Arctic Council, founded about 20 years ago, includes eight countries with territories in the Arctic — Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States.



Arctic Council 

observer status 

guarantees China’s 

legitimate rights


By Ren Ke and Qin Huajiang

Even without the power to vote, experts say the Arctic Council’s latest decision to grant observer status to China can guarantee the country’s legitimate rights and activities in the region.

At the Eighth Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council on Wednesday of May 15, China and another five states were granted observer status in the organization.

Founded in 1996, the group now has eight member states in the Arctic region, including Russia, the United States, Canada, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Iceland.

China first applied for observer status in the organization in 2006, and since 2007, it has been acting as an ad hoc observer.

Qu Xing, head of the China Institute of International Studies, said although it has no voting power, China can cast its influence through bilateral means and increase the transparency and equality of issues concerning the Arctic region.

Qu added that being granted observer status shows that China’s activities in and opinions about the region have been recognized by all member states.

Former Chinese Ambassador to Norway Tang Guoqiang said that through its observer status, China will strengthen its cooperation with countries surrounding the Arctic in scientific research, the opening of new shipping routes and resource exploration.

China’s activities in the Arctic region have long been focused on scientific research. As a country close to the region, China’s climate, environment, agricultural production and sustainable development have been deeply influenced by the environment in Arctic region.

From July to September 2012, China’s Arctic research team conducted the country’s fifth comprehensive field studies of the region. It marked the first time for a Chinese research team to cross the Arctic Ocean and to travel the northeastern route of the Arctic area.

The country sent four research teams to the region in 1999, 2003, 2008 and 2010, respectively.

The Arctic region is becoming strategically important as its melting ice layer is making an Arctic route connecting Europe, East Asia and North America a possibility.

The potential Arctic route could shave 4,000 kilometers off the route from China to Iceland, compared to the traditional route that runs through the Mediterranean, Suez Canal, Indian Ocean, Malacca Strait and the South China Sea.

Tang said if the route opens up, China will join other Asian countries in taking advantage of the convenience, which would greatly reduce costs and increase freight volume.

“It will be favorable to all parties, on the condition that Arctic navigation rules are abided,” added Tang.

In the meantime, abundant natural resources in the region are attracting more attention from all over the world. It is believed that the Arctic region is rich in oil, gas and other resources, leading some to dub it the “new Middle East.”

Tang said he expects that China will be willing to import energy resources from the Arctic region in an effort to diversify its total energy imports.

“China will cooperate with other Arctic countries in energy based on equality, mutual benefit and win-win deals,” added Tang.

China’s economic cooperation with other states surrounding the Arctic is promising. In April, China signed a free trade agreement with Iceland, the first of its kind between China and a European country.

Experts also refuted some accusations that China hopes to grab and plunder natural resources in the Arctic region and establish a military presence there.

“It is misunderstanding and making mischief,” said Qu. “China has no sovereignty claims in the region at all, nor intentions to initiate military activities.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on May 15 that  China recognizes the Arctic countries’ sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction in the Arctic area, as well as their leading role in the Arctic Council.

China respects the values, interests, culture and tradition of the Arctic aborigines and other inhabitants in the region, he added.




China vows to play peaceful role 

in Arctic region development: 

Chinese embassador


By Li Jizhi

China will act as a serious player and peaceful power after it has been accepted by the Arctic Council as a formal observer, Chinese Embassador to Finland Huang Xing has said.

“I am pleased to learn the news that China has been accepted as a formal observer of this organization,” he told Xinhua in an interview in Helsinki late Friday.

He stressed that China will be a very serious member and will contribute to the peaceful and sustainable development of the Arctic region.

China, together with Japan, India, Italy, Singapore and South Korea, were approved of full observer status in the Arctic Council on Wednesday, although their membership should be reassessed and renewed every four years.

The new participants, most of whom are Asian countries, do not have voting rights, but are allowed to raise proposals and participate in discussions.

“An observer has limited rights, but anyhow, we would very much like to participate in the discussion in the political arena, and also in scientific research, as well as in the economic field,” Huang told Xinhua.

Stressing that China will “act in a positive way,” he expected that after contributing its part, China could naturally “get benefits out of the developments in research, economic exploitation as well as transport.”

“Especially in the transport sector,” he said, “I think in the future it will save time and energy which is very significant for the marine transport between Asia and Europe.”

However, he admitted it is still uncertain when the sea ice might disappear seasonally, providing easy passage for shipments. “It is very difficult to get that conclusion but anyway the tendency is that some ice has already melted away.”

Earlier, an Arctic scientist told Xinhua that the sea ice could possibly melt away in summer sometime between 2030 and 2040.

“It dose not mean that the sea ice will completely disappear,” but since the multi-year ice is gone and icebreakers can operate better during winter months in different parts of the Arctic Ocean, said Timo Koivurova, a professor from the University of Lapland, Finland.

Complimenting China’s “responsible role” in the Arctic scientific study, Koivurova also believed it is time for the Arctic Council to take in new observers. He also believed the eight-member Council will act as a real governance body in the region.

Huang also believed the Arctic Council has a vital role in the region, but he “is not certain” if it will act as a real governance body widely approved by the international community, stressing the fact that some political matters are still not settled down yet.

Huang deemed it important “to see the healthy development” in the area. “I am sure it is a matter which not only concerns the surrounding countries of the arctic but also concerns other members of the international community.”






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