China Eyes Arctic Options in Energy, Transport
The decision to grant permanent observer status to China and five other nations by the Arctic Council meeting in Sweden Wednesday reflects the heightened interest by some of the world’s most powerful economies in an area rich in oil, gas, minerals, fish and new transport possibilities.
For new observer nations China, Japan and South Korea, shorter shipping routes to Europe through Arctic waters could open up prospects of new energy supply options later this decade, such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Russia’s Yamal Peninsula in northwest Siberia.
It could also lessen China’s dependence on oil and gas shipped from the Middle East, which must pass through the Southeast Asian chokepoint of the Strait of Malacca. Allied to China’s interest of getting oil and gas delivered from new pipelines across Myanmar and Central Asia, the potential of the Arctic trade routes loom large in China’s strategic thinking.