China to host global meeting of Antarctic Treaty

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 May, 2017, 12:17am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 May, 2017, 12:17am

China will for the first time host a meeting of the group overseeing management of the Antarctic at a time when Beijing is seeking to bolster its presence in both polar regions.

Some 400 delegates, from more than 40 countries and international organisations, will attend the annual meeting of the Antarctic Treaty, which begins on Monday and ends on June 1. China’s top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, and Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli are representing China. The meeting will cover administration of the treaty, climate change, tourism and other management issues.

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The treaty has 53 members, 29 of which are consultative parties with voting rights, including China, which joined in 1983. Seven countries – Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway and Britain – made territorial claims to parts of the Antarctica, but their claims are not recognised by other countries. Russia and the US have reserved their rights to make a claim.

On the sidelines of the talks, China will sign memorandums of understanding on cooperation in the Antarctic with the United States, Russia and Germany, and issue a white paper on its objectives in the region.

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Although China has no territorial claim to Antarctica, it has established four research stations there in 1985, 1989, 2009 and 2014. A fifth station is planned for 2019.

The number of Chinese tourists to the region has also grow in recent years. According to the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators, some 38,478 people visited the continent in 2015-16, with 11 per cent coming from China, the third-largest source of tourists after the United States and Australia.