US creates Arctic ambassador as Russia, China competition rises

US creates Arctic ambassador as Russia, China competition rises

A brown bear strolls through wasteland in front of the hospital in the Arctic city of Norilsk, Russia in May 2022
A brown bear strolls through wasteland in front of the hospital in the Arctic city of Norilsk, Russia in May 2022. Photo: Irina YARINSKAYA / AFP/File
Source: AFP

The United States said Friday it will create a position of Arctic ambassador to step up diplomacy as Russia and China increase their presence in waters opened up by climate change.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will soon name an ambassador-at-large who will engage with other Arctic nations, indigenous groups and other stakeholders, State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said.

"An Arctic region that is peaceful, stable, prosperous and cooperative is of critical strategic importance to the United States and a priority for Secretary Blinken," Patel said.

Warming has been rising in the Arctic at levels well beyond the rest of the planet, raising the prospect that once impenetrable waterways will open up for both commercial and military vessels.

Russia has been stepping up its presence near the North Pole, both with submarines and warplanes, while China has been building Arctic research stations, widely seen as a prelude to a larger presence.

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Blinken, at an Arctic Council meeting last year in Iceland, said that nations in the region had a "responsibility" to ensure "peaceful cooperation."

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The announcement of the new position of US ambassador-at-large comes as several days of talks open in Greenland on Arctic affairs.

Seven of the eight nations in the Arctic Council suspended their participation earlier this year because the rotating chairmanship is held by Russia, which has faced Western ostracization over its invasion of Ukraine.

The new ambassador will replace a previous US position of Arctic coordinator, held by career diplomat Jim DeHart.

Source: AFP

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