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 Slovak pipeline operator Eustream estimated it would ship 22.4 million cubic metres through the pipeline while the Slovak economy minister said the link was ready to run at full capacity.
China has also said it would like to continue to develop "friendly cooperation" with Ukraine and that it respects the ex-Soviet state's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Selling a fleet of subs would mark the first time since at least the end of World War Two that Japan had sold a complete weapons platform overseas.
The head of Iran's atomic agency says the agreement will be signed next month
A little more than a month ahead of general elections, new figures shows the Brazilian economy contracted by 0.6 percent in the second quarter of 2014
Russia cut off the gas flow in mid-June after the two sides failed to agree on pricing and debts owed for previous gas supplies.
Malaysia Airlines will be de-listed from the Kuala Lumpur exchange by the end of 2014
Venezuela's Petroleum minister, Rafael Ramirez, said earlier this year that PDVSA could import crude as a "last resort" to find diluents for its heavy crudes
Air France, the French network of Air France-KLM said on Wednesday it has suspended its flights to Sierra Leone following advice from the French government
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said that Kiev knew of plans by Russia to halt gas flows this winter to Europe
The inquiry into tycoon Bernard Tapie has embroiled several of former president Nicolas Sarkozy's cabinet members including Lagarde.
The riot broke out in the southern industrial hub of Johor state on Tuesday at a factory run by JCY International , a Malaysian firm that makes parts for electronic giants including Samsung, Hitachi and Western Digital.
Hawaii and U.S. territories have strong dependency on petroleum imports, because of their physical isolation and lack of fossil fuel resources, while their residential electricity prices have been three to five times the average residential prices of the mainland U.S.
Buyers of Kurdish crude could face lawsuits from Baghdad if the oil moves close to U.S. soil and would also require the seller to provide costly indemnities against potential lawsuits
Deep job losses, route cuts and a change of leadership are expected to feature in a restructuring plan being prepared by Malaysia's government
New company will create the third largest global fast-food chain with annual sales of US$23 billion.