Chinese could thaw over the Arctic
Increased interest in the Arctic could get the Chinese to thaw relations with Norway, Fridtjof Nansen Institute director Leiv Lunde thinks.
Svein Inge Meland Journalist , Michael Sandelson Translator
Norway's experience and knowledge of the Arctic may be the most decisive factor.
"The Chinese have certainly noticed the fact that Norway was a driving force when they received observer status in the Arctic Council in 2013. Their increased interest in Arctic Norway provides more opportunities to garner cooperation. For example, Norway could grant China access to the Norwegian Continental Shelf in the Arctic, just as it has already done with Japan," Mr Lunde said.
The Chinese are currently spending more money on their research in the Antarctic than in the Arctic.
Mr Lunde believes economic considerations are the main driving force behind their engagement in the Arctic.
"This particularly applies to oil and minerals. The possibility of a northern sea route and shorter way to Europe is very interesting to China in the longer-term. Tourism and fishing are other factors. China is also concerned with the climate and the Arctic's role in order to understand the global climate. As a superpower, the Chinese also want to show their presence and to participate in decision-making after the Arctic has moved higher up the political agenda," concludes Mr Lunde.
Oil companies envisage spending more than ever on the Norwegian Continental Shelf. Growth is levelling off and is only a third of the 2012 to 2013 period, however.
The Norwegian energy giant wants to drill an exploration well in the Atlantis project southeast of Bjørnøya (Bear Island).