China at Loggerheads With Norway Over Access to Arctic Archipelago
The 1920 Svalbard Treaty gives Norway “full and unrestricted sovereignty” over the strategic archipelago, Norway has been taking steps to limit foreign activity, something that underwhelms China.
As the international presence on Svalbard intensifies, the Norwegian authorities are now working on a strategy for a clearer scientific presence on the archipelago. Today, the archipelago hosts over 1,000 researchers from 200 institutions in 30 countries, the Norwegian newspaper Klassekampen reported.
In 2016, the Norwegian government outlined a plan for Svalbard to prevent a situation in which Norwegians would become a minority on the archipelago. As part of this endeavour, the Climate and Polar Department of the Research Council has produced a research strategy blueprint for Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard’s “science town”.
Among other things, Norway wants the research to be limited to natural science. First, Norway doesn’t want anyone to research, for instance, the Svalbard Treaty or how and why Norway secured its right to the strategically important archipelago. Second, the research should be published in English. Third, the blueprint states that it is not individual countries that are represented in Ny-Ålesund, but their institutions. Norway will thus stop referring to them as stations, and instead use their institutional names.
The proposals have upset China, which as of today runs 80 registered projects in biology, social studies, and atmosphere on Svalbard. In response, the Chinese Polar Instutue stressed that their Yellow River Station won’t change its name. By their own admission, the Chinese researchers also reserve the right to research as they please, including social sciences and law. In addition, they expressed a deep concern about Norway’s push for a universal research strategy.