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2012年8月28日 (火)

北極海開発 日本の発言権をどう確保する

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 28, 2012)
Japan needs to gain voice in Arctic Ocean development
北極海開発 日本の発言権をどう確保する(8月27日付・読売社説)

Countries such as Russia and Canada are maneuvering more actively to stake out advantageous positions in using the Arctic Ocean for shipping routes and in developing natural resources there. Japan also should become actively engaged in drafting rules on developing the Arctic Ocean.

Though long covered with thick ice, the Arctic Ocean recently has attracted attention as its ice is rapidly melting due to global warming.

The ocean's shipping routes, possible only in summer, have elicited interest as they are the shortest way to link Asian countries--the world's growth center--and Europe. Not only oil and natural gas but also gold, copper, nickel and other minerals are believed to be in abundance below the Arctic seabed.

The Antarctic Treaty has frozen territorial claims in the Antarctic continent and surrounding seas and prohibits military use of the area, but there is no such treaty for the Arctic Ocean.

Due to the lack of an international treaty, eight countries--the United States, Russia and other coastal nations--and indigenous minorities make up the Arctic Council, a forum to discuss rules on use of the Arctic Ocean.


Blatant moves by China

Meanwhile, China's moves are a cause of concern. Like Japan, China does not border the Arctic Ocean. Nonetheless, China considers shipping routes and natural resources there among its maritime interests and is trying to increase its influence over the ocean as a national strategy.

China's large icebreaker Xuelong has been on a research voyage in the ocean since early July. It took a shipping route north of Russia and in mid-August became the first Chinese ship to traverse the Arctic Ocean.

Beijing is also actively undertaking summit diplomacy with member nations of the council. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited Sweden, which currently chairs the council, and Iceland in April, while President Hu Jintao visited Denmark in June. They were able to reach agreements with leaders of those countries to enhance bilateral relations.

However, the efforts by China, which has a massive military force, to promote its maritime interests in the ocean are so blatant that other countries have become vigilant.

Utilization of the Arctic Ocean also is essential for the growth of the Japanese economy. Nonetheless, it is apparent Japan has started out late in the game.


Join Arctic Council

Three years ago, the Japanese government applied to the Arctic Council to obtain observer status. China and South Korea completed such applications ahead of this country.

How much a country contributes to the council's activities is said to determine approval as an observer. We think the government first should join the council as an observer and then enhance its information gathering activities to secure a voice there. The nation must accelerate its preparations to deal with issues concerning the Arctic Ocean.

The government also must promote summit diplomacy to strengthen Japan's relations with Russia and northern European countries. Japan also needs to undertake full-fledged research activities in the ocean.

It is unavoidable that the Chinese and Russian navies will become more active in seas north of Japan. The government will need to discuss with the United States how to build up Japan's defenses against them.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 27, 2012)
(2012年8月27日01時27分  読売新聞)


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