China does not accept that it is being held out of the increasingly important Arctic Council. The country is now stepping up it bid for permanent observer status and will soon send its Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to Sweden and Iceland, Deputy Foreign Minister Song Tao said at a press briefing this week.
-We hope to cooperate with relevant countries like Sweden and Iceland on issues of peace, stability and sustainable development in the Arctic, NTB and Nrk.no quote Song Tao as saying.
The Prime Minister will visit the countries in late April, the Chinese government website informs.
Sweden currently chairs the Council, which is gradually being turned into a key arena for international action in the Arctic.
China shows an increasing interest in the Arctic and is keen on strengthening its position in the Council. That, however, will require the approval of the current Council members. And that might not come easy.
From before, several of the Council members have been highly reluctant to expand the number of permanent observers. Among the bidders, which do far have been turned down, are not only China, but also several other countries, as well as the EU.
The issue is further complicated by Norway’s currently difficult relation with China. Ever since the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize Committee granted the prize to Chinese dissident Liu Ziaobo, China has frozen relations with the country. The Norwegian response seems to be that it can not discuss the Chinese role in the Arctic Council, simply because China refuses to talk with Norway.