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China’s One Belt, One Road Preparing To Enter the Arctic Corridor

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EIRNS—Following a meeting between China’s Prime Minister Li Keqiang and Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipila on June 27 in Dalian, China, during the "Summer Davos" World Economic Forum, both leaders pledged to enhance bilateral cooperation on Arctic affairs.

Asia Times reported that Finland made one of the most interesting proposals, for an EU3 billion ($3.4 billion) Arctic Corridor railway that would connect Northern Europe with China and Arctic Ocean deep-water ports. The idea is being pitched by a group of Finnish academics and business leaders. It would connect the city of Rovaniemi in northern Finland with the Norwegian port of Kirkenes on the Barents Sea.

According to the Arctic Corridor website, the Arctic Corridor is a global economic region as well as a transport and development corridor. It connects Finland and Europe to the deep-water ports of the Arctic Ocean, large production areas of oil and gas, and the western end of the Northern Sea Route. The Arctic Corridor project is at an early stage of development.

The Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden) are not participants in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to date, although all five are founding members of the BRI-related Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). On March 31 of this year, the Diplomat reported, Finland’s Foreign Minister visited China and presented the concept of an Arctic Corridor railway project. Finland will hold the Arctic Council chairmanship between 2019 and 2012.

The Asia Times also pointed out that Finland isn’t the only prospective site for a Belt and Road railhead. Another candidate is Latvia. Bordering Russia, it has well developed cargo-shipping and rail-freight infrastructure dating to the Soviet era. This was a factor when China opened an 11,000-km direct freight route between the terminus in Yiwu, Zhejiang province, and Riga, Latvia, last November.