China tension over Ukraine flares at Arctic Circle Assembly in Iceland
- Rob Bauer, chair of Nato’s Military Committee, confronted He Rulong, China’s ambassador to Iceland, over China’s failure to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
- China has resisted US calls to condemn Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, although Beijing said earlier this week it was ‘concerned’ about Moscow’s recent missile strikes
A senior Nato official confronted a Chinese diplomat over China’s failure to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine, injecting tension over the war into an international conference about the Arctic.
The unusually frank exchange between Admiral Rob Bauer, chair of the alliance’s Military Committee, and He Rulong, China’s ambassador to Iceland, followed a speech by Bauer on Nato’s role in the region at the annual Arctic Circle Assembly.
Bauer, a Dutch Navy officer, said China “doesn’t share our values and undermines the rules-based international order.”
The Chinese envoy spoke up from the audience to challenge Bauer, saying “Admiral, with due respect, your speech and remarks is filled with arrogance.”
That prompted disagreement by the Nato official.
“I have a question for you, because you underline the principle of sovereignty and the importance of the internationally recognised borders in the world,” Bauer said, drawing applause. “I am correct, isn’t that true? Yeah. So why is it possible then that China still is not condemning Russia’s attack in Ukraine?”
China’s view of the “Ukraine crisis” includes a historic perspective and the world needs to “understand the root cause,” He said, prompting scattered laughter when he called China “the peacemaker in the world.”
China has resisted US calls to condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, although Beijing said earlier this week it was “concerned” about Moscow’s recent missile strikes on civilian targets.
The United Nations General Assembly condemned Russia’s annexation of parts of eastern Ukraine in a symbolic vote on Wednesday, voting 143-5, with 35 nations including India and China abstaining, to approve the Western-backed resolution.
The Arctic Circle Assembly is an annual international gathering on the Arctic, including governments, indigenous organisations and academics.
It’s separate from the Arctic Council, an eight-country intergovernmental group that includes the US and current chair Russia. Its meetings have been suspended since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Gao Feng, China’s special representative for Arctic affairs, told the meeting that his country would not support excluding Russia, which is chairing the group until 2023, to punish it for the war in Ukraine and hand the chairmanship to Norway.
“There is no procedure to get anybody out of the Council,” Gao said. “So I really doubt whether the presidency could be passed on – to anybody – or Norway could take over.”