Anticipating an increase in commercial use of sea routes due to climate change, the government on Tuesday appointed Masuo Nishibayashi, ambassador in charge of cultural exchange, to concurrently serve as ambassador in charge of the Arctic, a newly created post, The Japan Times reports.
Nishibayashi will take part in meetings of the Arctic Council, once Japan joins the eight-country grouping designed to promote cooperation over common issues in the region, including sustainable development and environmental protection, the newspaper writes, citing the Japanese Foreign Ministry.
Japan has applied for permanent observer status in 2009. It is among 14 states and organizations which have applied for observer status, including South Korea, the European Union, China, India, Greenpeace and the Association of Oil and Gas Producers, Nunatsiaq News writes.
A decision on who gets in will be made in May just before Sweden hands over the chair of the Arctic Council to Canada at a ministerial meeting in Kiruna in northern Sweden.
In May 2012 Japan submitted a written statement to Deputy Ministers’ Meeting in Stockholm, noting that since submitting its formal application for the observer status in the Arctic Council in June 2009, Japan, as an ad-hoc observer, has attended all meetings of senior Arctic officials, the deputy ministers Meeting in 2010, and the ministerial meeting which took place in Nuuk in 2011.
Japanese experts also participated in meetings of the working group of the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program in February 2010 and October 2011, as well as in other “relevant meetings.”
In favor of its observer application, the statement says that Japan now has a “Consortium for Arctic Environmental Research,” with about 300 researchers. The consortium will address long-term Arctic environmental research planning, human resource development, and community outreach inside and outside Japan.
“As demonstrated by this background, Japan wishes to assure the Council that it has the determination and ability to make useful and substantial contributions to the work of the Council as a permanent observer,” the Japanese statement from 2012 reads.