Beijing - The Arctic will be the focus of stepped-up research and expedition efforts to deal with challenges and opportunities arising from melting ice cover, the country's top administrator on polar research has said.
Climate and environmental changes in the Arctic have a direct impact on China, Qu Tanzhou, director of the Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration (CAA) affiliated to the State Oceanic Administration, told China Daily.
"We need to increase scientific research and expeditions to better comprehend the Arctic Ocean and global climate change," Qu said, adding that China lags behind some countries in this regard.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) released a report in February saying that the Arctic could become consistently ice-free during summers from 2013 to 2060, posing economic, military and environmental challenges as well as offering opportunities.
China, like other countries under the framework of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, has the right to participate in the exploration of the Arctic, Qu noted.
"Scientific expeditions are the first step. We will take part in more activities through cooperation or independent exploration," Qu said.
It is estimated that the Arctic has 30 percent of the world's undiscovered gas and 13 percent of the world's undiscovered oil, which are "global resources, not regional", Qu pointed out.
The UN convention defines territorial waters as those extending 12 nautical miles beyond a country's coast. Waters extending 200 nautical miles are a country's exclusive fishing and mining zones.
It also stipulates that the high seas and the resources in the seabed there are the common heritage of mankind.
"We will strengthen collaboration and exchanges with Arctic and Antarctic countries in polar research," he said.
"Our research will focus on the interaction among the atmosphere, sea ice and the ocean," Qu said.
China set up its first and only Arctic scientific research base, Yellow River Station, on Svalbard Island of Norway in July 2004.
Qu also said China plans to build a new icebreaker vessel for polar research. The country now has only one such vessel, Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, for Arctic and Antarctic expeditions. It was purchased from Ukraine in 1993, and has a service life span of about 30 years.
Xuelong has completed 24 research expeditions to the Antarctic and three to the Arctic.