China’s threat to Arctic
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Senior Canadian official: China will ‘stop at nothing’ to gain access to resources
As China spreads its sphere of influence and control around the globe, unease is growing within the Canadian government, especially when it comes to Arctic sovereignty.
A leading Defense Department official told an Ottawa conference on security and defense that Beijing is turning its attention to the Northwest Passage as the rapidly shrinking icepack opens up Arctic sea lanes to shipping and resource development, including fish, petroleum and rare minerals.
Deputy Minister Jody Thomas said, “we should not underestimate at all the threat of resource exploitation in the Arctic by China in particular.”
“China has a voracious appetite and will stop at nothing to feed itself,” she said, putting the pressure on Canada to exploit the untapped Arctic resources faster than the Chinese.
Joint strategyChina’s aims of taking advantage of minerals in Canada’s Far North prompted a joint U.S.-Canada strategy to reshape global critical mineral supply chains and reduce reliance on China for the rare minerals.
Indicating its concern in December over its national security in the Arctic, Canada rejected the takeover of an Arctic gold mine that would have given Shandong Gold Mining, a state-controlled Chinese company, a foothold in the Northwest Passage by purchasing TMAC Resources.
The TMAC mine site is only about 60 miles from a North American Air Defense radar station in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, that is part of a chain installations between the Pacific and Atlantic.
Thomas said Canada is sending a message to China by deploying warships in the South China Sea, a vital artery for global commerce that Beijing is trying to bring under its control.
Russia also a concernShe said Russian activities in the Arctic are also troubling, including the construction of military bases in the Arctic region and the development of 13 polar icebreakers.
“Nobody would invest the kind of money needed to build up military capacity in the Arctic without reason, intent or purpose,” Thomas said. “We should not be naïve about that.”
As part of their new partnership pacts for the Arctic, Russia and China are making substantial investments in Arctic LNG exports through newly created ports, marine corridors, icebreaker tankers and nuclear icebreakers that point the way to year-round shipping.
Retired Canadian Major-General David Fraser has urged the Canadian government to establish a larger military presence in the Arctic, including round-the-clock surveillance operations using underwater vehicles and regular Navy and Coast Guard patrols.
He noted that Canada’s orders for Arctic and offshore patrol vessels are of little importance since they will have only limited ice-breaking capability.