World Bulletin/News Desk
An icebreaker has become the first ship from China to cross the Arctic Ocean, underscoring Beijing's growing interest in a remote region where a record thaw caused by climate change may open new trade routes.
The voyage highlights how China, the world's no.2 economy, is extending its reach to the Arctic which is rich in oil and gas and is a potential commercial shipping route between the north Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
The icebreaker Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, arrived in Iceland this week after sailing the Northern Route along the coast of Russia.
Expedition leader Huigen Yang, head of the Polar Research Institute of China, said he had expected a lot more ice along the route at this time of year than the vessel encountered.
"To our astonishment ... most part of the Northern Sea Route is open," he told Reuters TV. The icebreaker would return to China by a route closer to the North Pole.
He said that Beijing was interested in the "monumental change" in the polar environment caused by global warming.
Sea ice floating on the Arctic Ocean is on track to beat a record low set in 2007, making the region more accessible but threatening the hunting lifestyles of indigenous peoples and wildlife such as polar bears and seals.
The thaw is slowly opening up the Arctic as a short-cut route - the German-based Beluga Group, for instance, sent a cargo vessel north from Korea to Rotterdam in 2009.
"The (Chinese) journey indicates a growing interest in the melting of the ice in the northern regions and how climate change is affecting the globe and the future of all nations," the office of Icelandic President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson said.
Arctic sea ice extent on Aug. 13 fell to 5.09 million square km (1.97 million square miles) - an area smaller than Brazil, according to the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center.
Sea ice reaches its smallest in September before expanding again as winter approaches. China has overtaken the United States as the top greenhouse gas emitter, mainly from burning fossil fuels, ahead of the European Union, India and Russia.
"China's interest is a mix of business, science and geo-politics," said Jan Gunnar Winther, director of the Norwegian Polar Institute.
For countries outside the region like China, there may be more opportunities to supply equipment to aid drilling, he said. South Korea's Hyundai, for instance, is building a floating production unit for the Goliat oilfield in Norway's Barents Sea.
Winther said that research into climate change in the Arctic was also relevant to China's understanding of weather patterns that could affect its farmers.
China has applied to become an observer at the Arctic Council, made up of the United States, Russia, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland.
"The application will be handled in May next year," said Nina Buvang Vaaja, head of the Arctic Council Secretariat.
Other applicants seeking to join the Council, which oversees management of the region, are Japan, South Korea, the European Union Commission and Italy. Germany, Britain, France, Poland, Spain and the Netherlands are already observers.
The case has been closely watched due to the potentially high damages award and the opportunity to peek into the world of Silicon Valley's elite.
The currency move was part of wider actions by Russian banks to repatriate funds to Russia, lowering their exposure to the risks of possible wider Western sanctions
With memories of riots at the pumps when cheap fuel was rationed for the first time, in 2007, police are on the alert, but do not expect trouble, Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said
Slovak Economy Minister Tomas Malatinsky said a deal allowing shipment of the gas via an unused pipeline between the two countries was almost ready.
Much lawmaking in Europe, including a sweeping overhaul of banking, is wrapped up in talks between diplomats and lawmakers with no public record of who attended or what was said
Thousands of workers at a factory in Dongguan in the Pearl River Delta run by Hong Kong-listed Yue Yuen Industrial Holdings , the world's largest shoe maker, have been on strike for more than 10 days
Russian Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said last week that Russia could launch a dispute at the world trade body to challenge U.S. sanctions.
A Gazprom source said the $11.4 billion was in addition to the $2.2 billion that Naftogaz already owes for supplies in 2013 and 2014 so far.
Tech giant Apple reported Wednesday a 4.6 percent increase to $45.6 billion in quarterly revenue, beating market expectations after selling 43.7 million iPhones.
The six-day meeting is expected to discuss the CFTA's objectives, the principles that will guide negotiations for the free trade area, and the institutional arrangements needed to conduct negotiations.
Russia has proposed from European Union Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger for a three-way meeting on gas between Russia
The southern African country, which ditched its hyper-inflated local currency in 2009, is facing a serious dollar crunch as a result of lack of foreign donor support and investment
The European Commission, in charge of policing member states' public finances, is expected to respond to French projections in early June after European parliamentary elections
The Australian purchase is a signal of confidence in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme, which is about 70 percent over budget and years behind schedule
Executives say a plan is needed to tackle surging inflation as economic recession looms.
An agreement between the United States and Japan is crucial for setting the tone for other countries engaged in the TPP