China planning to expand military presence in the Arctic
WASHINGTON — An annual report on China's military status from the Pentagon shows Beijing has growing interests to expand its military influence in the Arctic.
According to a report released by the U.S. Department of Defense, China's presence in the Arctic has continued to increase since it gained observer status on the Arctic Council in 2013.
The report states that China has sent a Ukranian-built research icebreaker vessel called the Xuelong to map out the Arctic and has also proposed satellite research stations in Greenland, Iceland and Norway.
The Pentagon warned that Beijing might deploy nuclear-armed submarines as it's simultaneously growing its submarine fleet.
The report details that China currently has four nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, six nuclear-powered attack submarines, and 50 diesel powered attack submarines.
The Pentagon predicts that by 2020 the fleet could increase to up to 65 to 70 submarines.
According to the report, Beijing is also planning on building a new advanced guided-missile nuclear attack submarine Type 093B that the Pentagon claims could help China carry out more covert land-attacks.
China's growing interest in the Arctic could also be due to its interest in creating a trade route in the Arctic called the 'Northern Sea Route', connecting Shanghai to Northern Europe as part of its One Belt, One Road Initiative.
Rob Huebert, a senior research fellow with the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary, strongly believes China is mapping the Arctic for military purposes, he told CBC, "If you look at the overall passages where the Xuelong has gone, you can see quite clearly these are regions you would want to be sending submarines."
China's military power will continue to grow in the following years.
According to the report, China's official defense budget would likely grow from $200 billion in 2018 to roughly $260 billion by 2022.