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As Arctic council meets in Sweden, China pushes for permanent observer status


Secretary of State John Kerry (L) is welcomed by Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt (R) upon arrival in Stockholm, Sweden, where he is to attend the Arctic Ministerial Summit, on May 14, 2013.



As Secretary of State John Kerry joined dignitaries meeting in Sweden for the biennial meeting of the eight-nation Arctic Council, China expressed hope that its bid for permanent observer status would soon be accepted.

The eight-country Council, comprising Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia and the US, holds a ministerial meeting Wednesday in the northern Swedish city of Kiruna.

The forum will discuss problems posed by climate change and growing commercial activity in the Arctic, Radio Free Europe wrote.

China's bid to join the Council, meantime, has drawn speculation that Beijing is mainly interested in the region's rich resource potential.

Melting ice in the Arctic has revealed minerals such asd oil and gas more accessible and northern seaways more navigable.

According to Discovery News, a Chinese icebreaker last year crossed from the Pacific to the Barents Sea via the Northern Sea Route above Russia and returned from Iceland to the Bering Strait across the North Pole.

And last month Beijing signed a free trade deal with Iceland.

However, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a regular briefing Wednesday that:

"China values the scientific research and environmental protection (work) of the Arctic Council and has always supported the principles and purposes of the Arctic Council. We hope the council can accept China as an official observer at an early date."

However, a report about the country's application in the state-run China Daily newspaper on Monday quoted an unidentified Chinese official involved in the issue as saying they were "not very optimistic."

Japan, South Korea, Italy, Singapore, India and the European Union have also applied for observer status.