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Worldwide community share opportunities, issues in Arctic: white paper

Worldwide community share opportunities, issues in Arctic: white paper

China on Friday published a white paper on its Arctic policy, pledging cooperative governance and elaborating its vision for a "Polar Silk Road" extending President Xi Jinping's signature Belt and Road Initiative that India opposes. The impact on China's climate system and ecological environment in turn affects its economic activity such as agriculture and fishing, it said.

Still, the paper declares China a "Near-Arctic State" with an interest in developing shipping, carrying out scientific research and exploiting the region's oil, gas, minerals, fisheries and other natural resources.

While China's ambitions in the Arctic have been welcomed by its strategic partners, such as Russia, Western countries have viewed its increasing involvement in the polar region with skepticism, fearing it may have military objectives. It vowed to work "jointly with Arctic states, while respecting traditions and cultures of the Arctic residents, including the indigenous peoples and conserving natural environment". Instead, it enjoys observer status in the Arctic Council, whose core members include Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Finland, Russia and the US.

Beijing presented its plans in its first Arctic white paper, which marks the first time it has transparently outlined how it sees its role in the region.

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It said "great importance will be placed on navigation security".

Dr Marc Lanteigne of Massey University in New Zealand further noted: "What is spurring China is also that other governments in East Asia are starting to expand their Arctic interests". Instead, the white paper trumps up "freedom of navigation", a term more commonly used by the United States to contest China's territorial claims on islands Beijing has built in the South China Sea. As rising temperatures result in sea ice melting across the Arctic, there are new opportunities for ships to travel through previously inaccessible, resource-rich areas.

The depletion of ice in the Arctic circle, largely believed by scientists to be a effect of climate change, has prompted a race to develop the region, with members of the Arctic Council staking competing claims for large portions of the area.

"Some people may have misgivings over our participation in the development of the Arctic, anxious we may have other intentions, or that we may plunder resources or damage the environment", Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou said.


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