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Chinese Interest in Arctic ’Silk Road on Ice’

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EIRNS—Speaking to reporters on May 26 after a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that Russia’s proposal to jointly explore the Northern Sea Route was "a great idea," and that "China welcomes this idea and supports efforts with partners in the region to develop a ’Silk Road on Ice.’" Over the last five years or so, Russia has taken advantage of warming waters in the Arctic Ocean to develop transport and energy infrastructure in its Arctic territories. Moscow sees its Northern Sea Route, which stretches from the Bering Strait in the east to the Barents Sea in the west, as a prospective alternative to the other maritime routes currently linking Europe and Asia.

Professor Guo Peiqing, executive director of the Institute of Polar Law & Politics at the Ocean University of China, says that a maritime route through the Arctic would be by far the safest maritime route for China’s New Silk Road initiative. Speaking to Sputnik, Guo suggested that the sea route could become an important incentive for further Eurasian economic integration.

The expert emphasized that Beijing is very interested in developing the Arctic region, particularly in the areas of trade and economic cooperation.

"As far as cooperation is concerned, Russia is the priority nation for China," Guo noted. "We see how cooperation is developing in Yamal [through a joint gas production project]. Cooperation on the Belkomur project, running from Arkhangelsk, through the White Sea and to the Republic of Komi, and further into the Urals, looks very promising. China’s largest state corporations are looking to invest in that project."

Guo said that he is confident that the Arctic Russian cities of Arkhangelsk and Murmansk "will become the main transport hubs in Europe in the future, connecting the Artic Sea Route, northern Europe, and Russia’s interior. Therefore, this is a high priority direction, and we need to use it," he stressed.