China, Japan, South Korea to hold talks on Arctic region
China, Japan and South Korea are to hold talks in Seoul on Thursday on the Arctic, including discussing scientific research projects in the region, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry announced on Monday.
The meeting will be attended by Kazuko Shiraishi, Japan’s ambassador in charge of Arctic affairs, and her South Korean and Chinese counterparts Kim Chan Woo and Ma Xinmin.
Japan, South Korea and China are all observer states to the Arctic Council and joined the organisation three years ago.
The body seeks to address environmental and development issues relating to the region and also counts Canada, the United States, Russia and the Scandinavian countries among its members.
China is increasingly active in the polar region, becoming one of the biggest mining investors in Greenland and agreeing a free trade deal with Iceland.
The Arctic Council also accepted India as an observer state three years ago.
A Chinese official said last week China would encourage ships flying its flag to take the Northwest Passage via the Arctic Ocean to cut travel times between the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean.
Routes have been opened up as parts of the ice pack melt.
China’s Maritime Safety Administration released a 356-page guide this month offering detailed guidance on routes from the northern coast of North America to the northern Pacific.
“Once this route is commonly used, it will directly change global maritime transport and have a profound influence on international trade, the world economy, capital flow and resource exploitation,” said spokesman Liu Pengfei.
Shorter shipping routes across the Arctic Ocean would save Chinese companies time and money. For example, the journey from Shanghai to Hamburg via the Arctic route is 2,800 nautical miles shorter than going by the Suez canal.
Chinese ships will sail through the Northwest Passage “in the future”, Liu added, without giving a time frame.
Additional reporting by Reuters