“Climate change is a concern for all of us but is opening up maritime trade routes around the world, halving transit times between Europe and Asia. And we sit at the gate to these routes, “he said.
Speaking aboard the new aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales, in Portsmouth, he stated: “As China is navigating its developing navy into the Atlantic, which way it will come – the long route or the short route.”
“And this route is along the coast of a resurgent Russia. Today’s Russia is more active in the Atlantic – our backyard – than it has done in more than 30 years.”
Admiral Radakin continued: “As ‘High North’ becomes more open and accessible, it will become more contested as well as competitive.”
“We’ve done a lot more in the High North, we’ve been operating with our Norwegian friends, with our American friends, in the Barents Sea.
It’s one of a series of operations. We will be looking in the ‘High North’ to join our partners.
Our taking of our shares will look at capabilities, it will also involve us working and seeing what our partners have to offer us – Norway, America, Canada, other countries around the world that have a special interest in High North. “
The North Sea route is currently navigable between August and October, but that window is expected to continue expanding.
The Bureau of Economic Policy Analysis in the Netherlands predicts that the region may be ice-free by 2030, while the Copenhagen Business School projects 2040 as the time when large-scale shipping is likely.
Beijing has applied to join the Arctic Council.
It is an organization founded by countries bordering the region but China has established itself as a “near-Arctic” country and, after lobbying fiercely for membership, has managed to gain observer status.
China‘s official policy is that its activities in the Arctic be concentrated on scientific exploration, trade and development.
But its research stations in the region now include satellite systems capable of tracking missiles and intercepting military communications.
The Danish Defense Intelligence Service pointed out last year that the Chinese Army, which is increasingly using scientific research to build a presence, has recognized that some activities have a “dual purpose”.
A US Department of Defense report to Congress earlier this year stated “China can use its civilian research presence in the Arctic to strengthen its military presence, including by deploying submarines to the region as a deterrent to attack”.
Admiral James Stavridis, former NATO military chief, has pointed out that “China is building a nuclear-powered icebreaker, something that the US never even thought about.
Weighing more than 30,000 tonnes, the Chinese vessels will exceed the capabilities of any other country except Russia and will join the conventional six-ship fleet.
While Admiral Radakin warned of a Chinese military offensive in the High North, there has been mounting tensions on the other side of the world, in the Indo-Pacific region, with Beijing claiming 90 percent ownership of the South China Sea – a claim strongly denied by neighboring and western states.
Two US carrier groups, led by USS Ronald Reagan and USS Nimitz, conducted drills in the South China Sea last July with Beijing accusing Washington of “provocation”.
Earlier this week, the “Quadrangle” group of countries – the US, Japan, Australia and India – met in Tokyo and stressed the need to enforce freedom of navigation in disputed waters.
Last November Admiral Radakin signed a Trilateral Agreement with the US Navy Admiral Mike Gilday and Admiral Hiroshi Yamamura of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, on cooperation on various issues in the Indo-Pacific, including access to waters under international law.
The meeting took place aboard Britain’s second new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth which will begin its first mission in May.
“HMS Queen Elizabeth will sail from this shipyard, at the heart of the multinational Carrier Strike Task Group, with 40 aircraft. The floating embodiment of Global Britain, “said Adm Radakin on board the Prince of Wales.
The government has refused to say where Queen Elizabeth is headed, but there are wide hopes that it will be in the Indo-Pacific.
Senior office China has warned that sending British and US warships into disputed waters would be considered “hostile action” with serious consequences, and urged London not to be sucked into doing “dirty work” for Washington.
All indications indicate that an already strained relationship between China and Britain and the West are likely to become more tense as a military dimension is added from the High North to the Sea China South.