A look at East Asian diplomacy in the Arctic

There have been numerous bilateral visits by political figures and diplomats from East Asia to the Arctic countries over the past year. Former president of South Korea, Lee Myung-bak, visited Norway and Greenland last September, while former Premier Wen Jiabao visited Sweden and Iceland in April 2012. In April 2013, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Russia with 100 Japanese businessmen in tow to discuss energy cooperation, among other issues.

China, Japan and Korea are all exercising increased diplomatic and political thrusts into the Arctic countries, but in different manners. While the visits of Chinese and Korean officials target the Nordic countries to talk Arctic and environmental cooperation, China’s diplomatic representation is actually strongest in Russia. China has five consulates in Russia, the same number as it has in the U.S., perhaps pointing to at least a traditional equivalence in the weight that the U.S. and Russia hold in Chinese foreign policy. In comparison, Japan and Korea have 17 and 12 consulates in the U.S., respectively, while each country only has four consulates in Russia.

Finally, despite all the talk of Chinese and Korean interest in economic development in Nuuk, Greenland, of the ten existing foreign embassies there, nine are European and one Canadian. None are Asian — at least not yet. Meanwhile, one Arctic state is increasing its presence in Greenland. The Icelandic Foreign Ministry has opened a Consulate General in Nuuk, Greenland, furthering North-North diplomacy.

The faces of Asia in the Arctic

In January 2012, Singapore appointed Kemal Siddique to serve as Arctic Ambassador, while Japan tapped Masuo Nishibayashi to the post in March. These are the only two Asian countries to have designated Arctic Ambassadors, epitomizing the two countries’ attempts to demonstrate commitment to the Arctic.

Arctic affairs are also high on the agenda for Asian ambassadors to the Arctic states. The new ambassador to Canada, Norihiro Okuda, stated on the topic of the Arctic, “We’ll have to have a very serious dialogue with our Canadian counterparts about what they want to do, and what contributions we can do.”

Full article: A look at East Asian diplomacy in the Arctic (Alaska Dispatch)

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