U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is among the dignitaries convening in Sweden today for the biennial meeting of the Arctic Council – an eight-nation gathering that is attracting greater global interest as a warming Arctic presents challenges and opportunities.
Founded in 1996, the Council's membership comprises the eight nations – the United States, Russia, Canada, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland – with Arctic territory. But in a sign that the rest of the world is increasingly focused on the planet's northernmost realm, the Council will this year be considering applications for observer status from 14 governmental and non-governmental entities, including China, India, the European Union, and Greenpeace.
Arctic Ice Melt Linked to Chilly Spring
The application by China has gained particular attention, as the world's most populous nation seeks a greater foothold in the region. Last year, a Chinese icebreaker crossed from the Pacific to the Barents Sea via the Northern Sea Route above Russia, before returning from Iceland to the Bering Strait across the North Pole. And last month Beijing signed a free trade deal with Iceland.