Barren Wastelands No More

Arctic Resources, Exposed by Warming, Set Off Competition - NYTimes.com

Arctic Resources, Exposed by Warming, Set Off Competition – NYTimes.com.

NUUK, Greenland — With Arctic ice melting at record pace, the world’s superpowers are increasingly jockeying for political influence and economic position in outposts like this one, previously regarded as barren wastelands.

The race is on to stake out territory and mineral rights in the Far North.  Now that more areas of Greenland are exposed, mining for rare earth minerals is possible during the summer.  China seems to be first in line with cash to invest in the operations.

While the United States, Russia and several nations of the European Union have Arctic territory, China has none, and as a result, has been deploying its wealth and diplomatic clout to secure toeholds in the region.

The route across the famed “Northwest Passage ” is a much shorter trip than even going through the Panama Canal, and China sent the first ship across this past summer.

There’s also a big pile of minerals in the Arctic, and the surrounding nations are staking claims.

Arctic Resources, Exposed by Warming, Set Off Competition - NYTimes.com

The Arctic Council is in charge of the waters.  People from surrounding countries sit on the Council, but other nations want to take part.

This once-obscure body, previously focused on issues like monitoring Arctic animal populations, now has more substantive tasks, like defining future port fees and negotiating agreements on oil spill remediation. “We’ve changed from a forum to a decision-making body,” said Gustaf Lind, Arctic ambassador from Sweden and the council’s current chairman.

Territorial claims in the Arctic are governed by the UN Law of the Sea, which remains unratified by the United States.

The United States has been hampered in the current jockeying because the Senate has refused to ratify the Convention of the Law of the Sea, even though both the Bush and Obama administrations have strongly supported doing so. This means the United States has not been able to formally stake out its underwater boundaries. “We are being left behind,” Deputy Secretary Nides said.

With the possibility of ice-free summers coming sooner than later, the Arctic will be a busy place.  Will the US Senate ratify the Treaty?  Will China gain an advantage in the area?  How will the Arctic Council resolve issues surrounding development in the newly ice-free waters?  And can this area be developed without harming the fragile environment?

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Chinese Brinkmanship – 边缘政策

Protesters chant slogans outside the Japanese Consulate General in Hong Kong yesterday as they hold up a picture of the Diaoyu Islands with words reading: “Diaoyu belongs to China” and a sign saying: “Evil spirits of mountains and rivers.”

China dispatches ships to Diaoyu — Shanghai Daily | 上海日报 — English Window to China New.

TWO China Marine Surveillance ships reached waters around the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea yesterday morning to assert the country’s sovereignty in a show of protest against Japan’s “purchase” of the largely barren outcroppings from so-called private Japanese owners.

The two countries are locked in a dispute over some islands, with the winner being able to claim the right to mine the rich gas fields around the islands.

In a statement read out on a state television news broadcast, the foreign affairs committee of China’s legislature said yesterday: “We strongly urge Japan to fully grasp the dangerousness of the present situation and step back from the edge of a precipice over the Diaoyu Islands issue.”

This is a serious game of chicken, with neither country willing to back down.  How will this issue be resolved?  How far will China and Japan push each other?  How will the US avoid getting sucked into this dangerous situation?

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