OTTAWA (CU)_China’s expansion into the Arctic has been identified as one of the major defense issues the Canadian military will face in the near future.
In early March, the deputy minister of the Department of National Defence, Jody Thomas, held a virtual meeting of the Conference of Defence Associations, during which he claimed that the East Asian nation’s expansion into the polar region is posing a significant risk to Canada.
“We should not underestimate at all that threat of resource exploitation in the Arctic by China in particular,” Thomas said. “China has a voracious appetite and will stop at nothing to feed itself, and the Arctic is one of the last domains and regions left, and we have to understand it and exploit it — and more quickly than they can exploit it.”
These views were confirmed by the recent ice testing and trials concluded by the Royal Canadian Navy for the first of its new fleet of Arctic offshore patrol ships. Following the trial, Acting Chief of the Defence Staff Lt. Gen. Wayne Eyre sent a message to all Canadian forces personnel, in which he described the increased interest in the Arctic, particularly by Beijing, as one of the factors which are “driving change in how we conceptualize national defence”.
Nevertheless, Ottawa has already taken measures to limit Chinese presence in the region. For instance, in December last year, the Canadian government refused to allow a firm controlled by the governing Communist Party to purchase a gold mine in Canada’s Arctic territory, on account of national security concerns. The mine was expected to give Beijing a foothold near the Northwest Passage, which is anticipated to be a key shipping route as ice melts due to global warming.