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The Dragon Covets the Arctic
|by Dr. A. Adityanjee|
China’s lust for oil, minerals, rare earths, fish and desire for an alternative northern sea route boils the Arctic Geopolitics!
Iceland is a small, sparsely populated island nation with a population of only 320,000 and area of 40,000 square miles. It is the only member of the NATO that does not have an army of its own. Icelandic banks were part of the 2008 global financial crisis and meltdown when they exposed the Icelandic government of huge financial risks by indulging in risky loans and speculative foreign currency transactions without having enough liquidity and capital reserves. The fiscal crisis led to a former Icelandic prime minister losing his job and being hauled to court of law for not supervising the banks enough.
In an international capitalistic, mercantile system, if Iceland were a company, it was “sitting duck” for outright purchase and acquisition. Fortunately, foreigners are not allowed to buy any property or real estate in Iceland and need a special permit.
Arctic Council Membership:
There are eight members of the Arctic Council that includes Canada, Denmark (including Greenland), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the USA. All these eight countries have geographic territories within the Arctic Circle. It was constituted in 1996 as an intergovernmental body but has evolved gradually from a dialogue forum to a geo-political club and a decision making body. There are continuing territorial disputes in Arctic Circle. Ownership of the Arctic is governed by the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea, which gives the Arctic nations an exclusive economic zone that extends 200 nautical miles from the land. Member countries signed their first treaty on joint search and rescue missions in 2011. A second treaty on cleaning up oil spills is being negotiated. The group established its permanent secretariat at Tromso, Norway in January 2013.
Arctic Melting and Opening of Newer Sea Lanes:
With global warming becoming a reality, the Arctic ice has started to melt rapidly opening the northern sea-lanes that were frozen earlier. In summer of 2012, 46 ships sailed through the Arctic Waters carrying 1.2 million tonnes of cargo. There are legal questions about the international status of the northern sea lanes.
China’s Lust for Arctic Resources:
The Arctic has 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil and 30% of gas according to the US Geological Survey. Greenland alone contains approximately one tenth of the world’s deposits of rare earth minerals. China which already has a monopoly on world’s rare earth metal trade wants to continue controlling this global trade. China piously claims that the Arctic resources are the heritage of the entire mankind while insisting that the South China sea is its exclusive sovereign territory.
China’s Previous Use of Deception:
There is no mandarin character for word transparency. China has been known to use duplicity and deception since the Art of War was written by Sun Tzu. China’s rhetoric of “peaceful and harmonious rise” and hegemonic behavior are predictably diametrically opposite to each other. China’s use of deception to camouflage its intentions in geopolitical matters is not surprising. While China joined the NPT in 1991, it provided 50 kg of highly enriched uranium to Pakistan, provided that country with a nuclear weapon design and supervised Pakistan’s first nuclear test at the Chinese nuclear testing site of Lop Nur. China purchased in 1998 an unfinished aircraft carrier from Ukraine after the break-up of Soviet Union ostensibly for developing a floating casino. The same “floating casino” is now China’s first aircraft carrier projecting Chinese naval and maritime power in the South China Sea.
China’s Application in Arctic Council Membership:
China currently has an ad hoc observer status with Arctic Council. China’s application for permanent observer-ship was denied by Norway in 2012 owing to bilateral dispute over awarding of Nobel peace prize to China’s Liu Xiabo in 2010. China still has a pending application to be decided in May 2013 Arctic Council summit in Sweden when Canada takes over the chair for the next two years. With a permanent observer status, China would get full access to all Arctic Council meetings. Permanent observers do not have voting rights in the council but can participate in deliberations.
Other Pending Applications:
Other countries or non-state actors with pending applications for permanent observer-ship status include Japan, South Korea, India, Singapore, European Union, and non-state actors like Greenpeace and the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers. All these applications will be decided one way or the other in May 2013. The vote has to be unanimous for acceptance and how the US and Russia will vote is the crucial issue. In the past, Norway had vetoed China’s membership application. Some of the Arctic Council members may not approve European Union’s application because of EU’s penchant for restrictive and narrow rulings. Whereas Sweden, Canada, Iceland and Denmark may support China’s application, there are doubts about Norway, Russia and the US. Russia is currently the most vociferous member of Arctic Council that has serious reservations in expanding the Arctic club.
China has voracious appetite for new territories and has been seeking new frontiers for the last three hundred years with Inner Mongolia, Manchuria, Xinjiang and Tibet. China’s list of “core issues” is ever-expanding, starting with Taiwan and Tibet. China has included the whole the South China Sea and its islands as a core issue. China is aggressively claiming sovereignty on these islands based on historical maps and manufactured mythological evidence. China has now a license from the UN for deep sea bed mining for minerals in the Indian Ocean and has developed naval bases in Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea ports. If China manages to get a toehold in Arctic Circle, its behavior will become as belligerent in Arctic as it is in the South China Sea. It might claim sovereignty over the whole of the Northern route sea lanes based on “historical evidence”. If in 22nd century, China decides that the Arctic Circle is its core national issue, one would be seeing Chinese aircraft carriers in the Arctic Sea and Chinese nuclear powered submarines in the Barente Sea along with military bases with “Chinese characteristics” in the Iceland and Greenland.
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04/04/2013 13:49 PM
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