China Muscles In on Race for Piece of Arctic Pie

Beijing increasingly aggressive as stakes get higher

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Sep 19, 2012 4:00 AM CDT

(Newser) – As Arctic ice continues to melt at a disturbing pace, the "Cold War" in the region is heating up. Global superpowers, excited about the oil, gas, minerals, and shipping lanes that are being made newly available thanks to the melting ice, are vying for position in the region—and some are concerned about China's increasingly aggressive plays for influence. Unlike the US, Russia, and some EU nations, China has no Arctic territory, so it has been attempting to get in where it can, the New York Times reports. Its first ship sailed across the Arctic to Europe in August, and it is looking to be named a permanent observer on the Arctic Council, the eight Arctic nations that oversee regional policies. The EU, Japan, and South Korea have applied for the same status.

China's justification? It says it's a "near Arctic state," and anyway, the Arctic is "the inherited wealth of all humankind," says its State Oceanic Administration. To boost its chances, China is sending out diplomatic tentacles and offering trade and other deals. Of particular concern are its overtures to Greenland, a poor island where crucial rare earth metals are being unveiled as ice melts; the EU is attempting to ensure China doesn't get exclusive access. Greenland has also been visited by diplomats from the US and South Korea recently. "We are aware that is because we now have something to offer, not because they’ve suddenly discovered that Inuit are nice people," says the country's vice premier. Click for more.

This undated handout photo provided by NOAA shows Arctic ice. Federal officials say the Arctic region has changed dramatically in the past five years, for the worse. It's melting at a near record pace.
This undated handout photo provided by NOAA shows Arctic ice. Federal officials say the Arctic region has changed dramatically in the past five years, for the worse. It's melting at a near record pace.   (AP Photo/NOAA)
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