China has announced plans to develop a “Polar Silk Route”, by developing shipping lanes through the Arctic.

Global warming is affecting the Arctic in such a way that viable shipping routes through the Arctic will become increasingly desirable for international trade, and a changing Arctic is opening the world up to more potential business opportunities.

Beijing has said that China would work with Russia and other Arctic countries to develop the polar route

Last August, a Russian tanker travelled from Norway to South Korea without an icebreaker escort for the first time.

In its first official policy paper on the polar region, China said “China hopes to work with all parties to build a ‘Polar Silk Road’ through developing the Arctic shipping routes”

It also suggested that every country’s “rights to use the Arctic shipping routes should be ensured”.

The north-east passage would offer China a faster sea route to many ports compared to the Suez or Panama canals which it currently uses.

Fears that China wants to plunder Arctic resources or damage the environment were “absolutely unnecessary”, Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou said, according to Reuters news agency.

The paper does acknowledge China’s interests in oil and gas, minerals, fishing and other resources in the region, but it expresses an interest in developing them co-operatively with other nations and Arctic states.

The paper encourages businesses to build infrastructure and conduct commercial trial voyages in the Arctic.