Defending China's Arctic research mission, Chinese officials and analysts have categorically dismissed a Japanese media report which said the country is "casting menacing eyes on" the Arctic.
The Japanese daily Sankei Shimbun carried an article on Jan. 28 claiming that China has been "eyeing greedily" the Arctic, said to be rich in untapped oil and gas, and mulling building a strategic base there for its "resources exploration" and even "naval vessels."
Qu Tanzhou, head of the Chinese administration in charge of Arctic and Antarctic exploration, on Tuesday refuted the article.
"It attempts to produce groundless suspicion between the Arctic states and China and undermine their relations, thus jeopardizing China's normal research missions there," Qu said.
CLIMATE CHANGE RESPONSE
As a major country in the Northern Hemisphere, China is greatly influenced by climate and environmental changes in the North Pole, Qu noted.
"As the world is increasingly concerned about the effects of climate change, it is fairly natural for China to embark on and step up Arctic research missions," he said.
China's Arctic research focuses on the interaction between the unfrozen sea, ice and air.
Qu said the research not only concerns China's economic and social development, but also helps deepen humanity's knowledge of climate change.
China's Arctic research mission started in late 1990s -- after the United States, Russia, Britain, France, Canada and Japan.
Only in late 1999 did China conduct its first comprehensive scientific research of part of the Arctic Ocean, followed by three more similar missions in 2003, 2008 and 2010, respectively, in fields of physical oceanography, marine biology and marine chemistry.
China had invited scientists from the United States, Russia, Japan, South Korea, Finland and France, to join these missions, of which the whole process was open and transparent, according to Qu.
China signed the Svalbard Treaty in 1925, which entitled it to conduct scientific research in the Svalbard archipelago of Norway, where the country established its first Arctic scientific research station, the Yellow River Station, in 2004, after Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy and South Korea had already done so.
UNTAPPED RESOURCES AND SEA ROUTE
"China did not prospect for oil and gas resources in the Arctic area nor has the capability or capacity to mine oil and gas there," Qu said.
However, he said that in the context of economic globalization, resources in any region or country can be circulated and distributed globally, just like currency or commodities, with which China is never the only to be linked.
Researchers expect that as global warming continues to melt the polar caps, a new sea route linking Europe, Asia and North America may be created through the Arctic, which will be much shorter than the current major international sea line through the Suez Canal.
Ruan Zongze, a research fellow with China Institute of International Studies, told Xinhua Tuesday that the Arctic sea route, if opened, will influence many countries, and as a global service, it will never be dominated by a single country.
"For the route, what China is doing is more following the trend and keeping attention, and also playing an appropriate role," Ruan said.
Huang Nubo, a Chinese private business owner, once planned to buy a piece of land in Iceland for investment purpose, a move that grabbed extensive media attention in November 2011.
The failed bid, however, was cited as a Chinese government attempt to "build a strategic stronghold" in the Arctic by the Sankei Shimbun last week.
Smashing the allegation as a "ridiculous hoax," Huang also expressed his sadness over the "picky" manner of the Western world toward Chinese enterprises.
"With the world being caught by surging trade protectionism and an increasingly weakened Western economy, the developed countries increasingly tend to embrace a post-cold war mindset about Chinese companies," Huang said.
It is reasonable for China to beef up its relations including in trade and investment with North European countries, which have long lagged behind the development of its ties with other parts of Europe, according to international studies analysts.
Ruan said it is almost "paranoia" to compare China's normal commercial investments in the Arctic to efforts to maintain a strategic control there.
"As a country outside the Arctic circle, China has no special interests in the Arctic," he said.