New Chinese threats . . . in the Arctic?

Trouble in (frozen) paradise . . .

The Arctic Council Ministerial meeting took place earlier this week in Finland. In his opening speech, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo singled out China as posing a security threat in the region and hinted that the goal of Chinese civilian research and activities in the Arctic is to support a disguised military presence.

What’s really threatening the Arctic?

While this meeting is usually a forum for the eight Arctic states and non-Arctic observers (China has been an observer since 2013) to discuss scientific co-operation, environmental protection, and governance issues, Secretary Pompeo’s words suggest the current U.S. administration believes these are now trivial matters, as he warned against a “new South China Sea” type of situation in the Arctic. Delegates and experts alike have condemned the new U.S. prioritization of security in the region.

New frontier of great power competition?

After years of increasing Chinese polar capacity and a focus by the Obama administration on climate change and regional governance, Pompeo’s speech indicates not only a shift in U.S. Arctic policy but also a ratcheting up of its showdown with China. And with the Pentagon due to present a new defence strategy for the Arctic in the coming weeks, the High North seems poised to become the latest arena of U.S.-China strategic competition, something we feel Canada and like-minded countries should do their best to de-escalate.