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Asian Countries' Interest in the Arctic: What Will It Mean for Norway?

Asian countries and the Arctic(06.07.2012) Will Asia's Arctic ascent affect Norway's ability to pursue its policies in the High North? A new, major research project looks into the Arctic policies of China, Japan, South Korea and India.

Norway's ability to defend national interests is challenged as steadily more governments and companies eye opportunities in the High North. Melting ice, new transport routes and strong demand for energy and other mineral resources are main drivers.

Asian players are rapidly becoming part of the puzzle, in line with their conspicuous rise to global power. China is key, and its resource-motivated power manifestations are also important drivers of Arctic strategies of countries like Korea, Japan and India.

Will Asia accept or challenge the current Arctic order?

A new major 3-year research project coordinated by the Fridtjof Nansen Institute (FNI) will map and analyze the activities, policies and decision-making processes of these four countries towards the Arctic region in the fields of security, energy, shipping and research.

An important question will be whether the promotion of these Asian states' interests in the Arctic will take a primarily cooperative form, or whether we will see challenges to the existing Arctic governance system, with the UN Law of the Sea Convention as the basic framework, supplemented by regulations established by the Arctic coastal states or emerging under international organizations.

Leiv LundeFNI Director Leiv Lunde plays a key coordinating role in the project.

"This large project is one of the first, major efforts to address Asian aspirations in the Arctic, and places Norway firmly on the global map in regard to this question. Two of FNI's long-standing research areas are Arctic cooperation and Chinese environmental politics, and it feels very natural for us to combine these two competence areas for this project," Lunde says.

The research questions

In cooperation with the Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies (IFS) and partners in each of the Asian countries in question, the issues to be studied by the FNI include the following:
 What will climate change mean for economic and political activities in the Arctic?
 Why and how will China and other Asian countries act to gain access to resources and transport routes in the Arctic? What interests do these countries see in the Arctic, how strong are they and how important actors will the Asian countries become in the coming decade?
 Why is an Arctic sea route – the Northeast Passage – so attractive for countries in Northeast Asia, and to what degree may Asian shipping and energy interests contribute to intensify the opening of the route?
 What does Asia's fast growing interest for the Arctic mean for the political and military security balance in the High North? How will and should Russia and other Arctic states (including Norway) handle Asia's march towards the North?
 How will the fight over Arctic resources influence the relationship between the major powers Russia and China, and how will this relationship influence Norwegian interests?
 How will China and other Asian countries seek to influence the Arctic Council, the UN Law of the Sea Convention and organizations such as the International Maritime Organization (IMO)?
 What will Asia's entry into the Arctic mean for Norwegian interests – political, economic, military, energy-wise and in relation to environment and climate? How should Norway handle Asian aspirations for a clearer presence in the High North and for participation in the Arctic Council?

The project is funded by the Research Council of Norway's NORRUSS Programme.

 The Fridtjof Nansen Institute (FNI) is an independent foundation engaged in research on international environmental, energy, and resource management politics.
The Institute maintains a multi-disciplinary approach, with main emphasis on political science, economics, and international law.

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