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China makes maiden Arctic crossing

20th August 2012

A Chinese icebreaker has crossed the Russian coast to the Arctic Ocean as part of government plans to eye the resource rich region and assess potential new shipping routes

China makes maiden Arctic crossing
The Arctic is made up of potential commercial shipping routes between the north Atlantic and Pacific oceans as the thaw slowly opens up the region

Energy-hungry China for the first time has voyaged into the Arctic Ocean, highlighting Beijing’s interest in the increasingly more accessible oil and gas-rich territory, it emerged this week.

The icebreaker Xuelong, also known as Snow Dragon, arrived in Iceland last week after sailing the Northern Route along the Russian coast. Xuelong has become the first Chinese ship to cross the Arctic Ocean.

The feat underscores Beijing's desire to extend its reach in the oil and gas rich area. The Arctic holds an estimated 22-25 per cent of the world’s undiscovered petroleum resources.

In addition, as the thaw slowly opens up the region due to climate change, the Arctic is set to unveil new trade routes for several countries.  This change in the polar environment has also sparked China’s interest.

Arctic sea ice extent last week fell to 5.09 million square km, according to the US National Snow and Ice Data Center.

China has applied to become an observer at the Arctic Council, made up of the US, Russia, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland.

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