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China wants in on Arctic-related activity

From oil and gas, to extending its Belt and Road initiative, China said its ready to advance cooperation in the far north.

By
Daniel J. Graeber
A Chinese white paper published Friday outlines how the government wants to cooperate on Arctic-related activity. NASA Photo by Maria Jose Vinas/UPI
A Chinese white paper published Friday outlines how the government wants to cooperate on Arctic-related activity. NASA Photo by Maria Jose Vinas/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 26 (UPI) -- From oil and natural gas development, to new shipping lanes, the Chinese government called Friday for greater coordination on Arctic-related activity.

"China stands for steadily advancing international cooperation on the Arctic," a white paper published Friday by the State Council Information Office read.

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A changing climate leaves parts of the Arctic ice free for longer periods of time, leaving the region open to shippers. Russia, meanwhile, is an active oil and gas explorer in the region and, in December, a subsidiary of Gazprom Neft finished surveys of an oil field in the Arctic waters of the Pechora Sea.

The company reached a milestone in 2016 with the production of its 10 millionth barrel of oil at the Prirazlomnoye field. Discovered in 1989, the field is roughly 35 miles from shore in the Pechora Sea.

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Oil from the field is transported by two doubled-hulled tankers designed to ensure safe delivery from the Arctic north.

The Chinese paper said it encouraged the development of environmentally-friendly equipment in areas like biological observation, "Arctic oil and gas drilling and exploitation, renewable energy development, navigation and monitoring in ice zones, and construction of new-type icebreakers."

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Advocacy groups like Greenpeace have been critical about oil operations in the extreme climates of the Arctic north, saying an oil spill in the region would be catastrophic and difficult to control.

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On Arctic environmental concerns, the white paper stated the Chinese government is serious about conservation and the issue of climate change.

On shipping, the proposal outlines a "Polar Silk Road" that would develop shipping lanes through Arctic waters. That policy would mirror the Belt and Road Initiative, which is part of Chinese President Xi Jinping's effort to integrate the Chinese economy with its European counterparts.

Sovereignty over Arctic territory belongs to Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States. Other countries share maritime rights to the waters of the Arctic Ocean.

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"While pursuing its own interests, China will pay due regard to the interests of other countries and the broader international community," the white paper read.

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