China urges balance on environment, economy in Antarctica

FILE - In this file photo taken Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014 and released by Xinhua News Agency, a helicopter from the Chinese National Antarctic Research Expedition or CHINARE is used to evacuate passengers, who were aboard the trapped Russian vessel MV Akademik Shokalskiy, to a safe surface off the Antarctic. Chinese officials plan to detail their ambitions in Antarctica as Beijing hosts a meeting beginning Monday, May 22, 2017 of an international group that oversees management of the polar region. (Zhang Jiansong/Xinhua via AP, File)
FILE - In this Dec. 17, 2005 file photo released by Xinhua News Agency, members of the Chinese Antarctica Research Team wait for the arrival at the continent on board of the polar expedition ship Xuelong, one day before the team on its 22nd expedition trip to the polar continent arriving the icy region nearby the Chinese Zhongshan station after one-month sailing. Chinese officials will detail their growing ambitions in Antarctica on Monday, May 22, 2017, as Beijing hosts a meeting of nations that oversee management of the polar region amid concerns over its susceptibility to climate change. Scientific research in Antarctica is governed under a 1959 treaty that designates the ice-capped continent as a natural reserve and prohibits commercial resources extraction. (Zhang Zongtang/Xinhua News Agency via AP)
FILE - In this Jan. 26, 2015 file photo, Wenjun Li, a marine chemist from China, walks along the beach in search of samples in Punta Hanna, Livingston Island, South Shetland Islands archipelago, Antarctica. Chinese officials plan to detail their ambitions in Antarctica as Beijing hosts a meeting beginning Monday, May 22, 2017 of an international group that oversees management of the polar region. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko, File)

BEIJING — A Chinese leader on Tuesday urged international representatives to strike a "proper balance" between environmental and economic interests in Antarctica, as the frozen continent's vulnerability to climate change raises worries that some nations could seek to exploit its natural resources.

China is seeking to carve out a greater role in determining the continent's future while hosting delegates from more than two dozen nations that have agreed to an Antarctic protection treaty.

Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli — who sits on the Communist Party's all-powerful, seven-member Politburo Standing Committee — told participants that the fate of Antarctica's fragile environment bears on human survival.

"There needs to be a proper balance between the protection and utilization of Antarctica in order to keep the environment green and sustain economic growth and cultural stability for mankind," Zhang said.

His reference to economic interests fed into speculation that China and other nations are maneuvering to exploit mineral resources that could be exposed by a shrinking southern ice cap.

U.S. delegate Kelly Falkner said that's highly unlikely under international agreements linked to the 1959 treaty. There also are practical concerns, given Antarctica's remoteness and harsh weather for much of the year.

Environmental protection protocols under the Antarctic treaty are due to come up for reconsideration in 2048. But Falkner said it would require consensus among the treaty nations to change an existing framework that includes a mining ban.

A bigger worry for the U.S. is that China could overtake it as the global leader in polar research, said Falkner, who heads the Office of Polar Programs for the National Science Foundation.

Liu Zhenmin, a Chinese vice foreign minister, said Zhang's statements about economic growth referred to rising numbers of Antarctic tourists from China and its commercial fishing vessels in the area. Liu told The Associated Press that China's interpretation of the treaty was that mining "would be prohibited forever."

China acceded to the Antarctic treaty in 1983 and has since established four research stations. It plans to start construction of an airfield later this year and a fifth research station as early as 2018. It also has a new icebreaker under construction to augment the Xue Long, a Ukrainian-built vessel currently used to service its Antarctic missions.

Yet while China has publicly emphasized its scientific ambitions, it also appears to be hedging against possible future development opportunities, said Marc Lanteigne, a senior lecturer on China and the polar regions at New Zealand's Massey University.

Seven countries have made land claims in Antarctica. The United States and Russia have said they don't recognize the claims but have reserved the right to make future claims of their own.

"In theory, there is the possibility of mining on the perimeter of Antarctica. More and more land might come open" due to climate change, Lanteigne said. "China and the other participants have expressed support (for the treaty) and don't want to seem like they're undermining it, but there is that level of uncertainty."

___

Follow Matthew Brown on Twitter at twitter.com/matthewbrownap

Must Read

Recent developments surrounding the South China...

Apr 10, 2017

The Pentagon says A U.S. Navy aircraft carrier strike group is departing the South China Sea to...

Zhang Yimou says 'Great Wall' story may have been...

May 10, 2017

Zhang Yimou says the disappointing U.S. performance of the biggest budget China-U.S. co-production...

Computer beats Chinese champion in ancient board...

May 23, 2017

A computer that plays go has defeated China's top player of the ancient board came and the Chinese...

The Latest: US wants Liu to be able to choose...

Jul 13, 2017

U.S. officials want Chinese authorities to allow Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo and his...

Stock markets slide as tech earnings underwhelm

Jul 28, 2017

Asian, European shares slide as concerns spread over Wall Street's tech sell-off

People also read these

China tries to reassure foreign companies over...

Mar 11, 2017

China's industry minister has defended a manufacturing development plan and rejected complaints...

China's fondness for pirated software raises...

May 16, 2017

China's fondness for pirated software left it especially vulnerable to the latest global cyberattack

Computer beats Chinese champion in ancient board...

May 23, 2017

A computer that plays go has defeated China's top player of the ancient board came and the Chinese...

Wasted green power tests China's energy leadership

Jun 5, 2017

China's scramble to curb pollution has made it the world leader in renewable energy development,...

Foreign doctors deem ill Chinese Nobel laureate...

Jul 9, 2017

Two foreign specialists who visited Liu Xiaobo say the cancer-stricken Nobel Peace Prize laureate...

Weather, 20 December
Houston Weather
+7

High: +11° Low: -2°

Humidity: 83%

Wind: NNE - 7 KPH

Canberra Weather
+27

High: +27° Low: +17°

Humidity: 87%

Wind: W - 20 KPH

Roissy-en-France Weather
+6

High: +6° Low: -5°

Humidity: 87%

Wind: ENE - 7 KPH

Florence Weather
+9

High: +9° Low: +6°

Humidity: 97%

Wind: ENE - 17 KPH

Parga Weather
+7

High: +16° Low: +4°

Humidity: 100%

Wind: SE - 25 KPH

About Us

RedShiftDaily was started out of fascination with mankind discoveries through peering out into the cosmos. Our team of enthusiasts are going to deliver only the best and latest progress in space technology and discovery so you too can share in the excitement.

Contact us: sales@redshiftdaily.com