Canberra: ‘China’s intent with respect to the South China Sea was not recognized on time, and we must not repeat the same mistake with Antarctica. If Chinese activities in the Antarctic are not curbed in time, China will take control of the region,’ the think tank the ‘Australian Strategic Policy Institute’ warned. The warning comes at a time of high tensions between Australia and China, thereby drawing the attention of strategic analysts across the globe.
The Australian think tank has composed a report called ‘Eyes Wide Open’ based on China’s ambitions for Antarctica, its military operations in the region and the threat they pose to Australia. In an interview with a Japanese news agency, Anthony Bergin, a co-author of the report, revealed information on it. ‘Australia had helped China to get into the Antarctic system roughly three decades ago. The country had sought significant assistance from Chinese companies in its research. However, China’s entry into the region has transformed into a risk,’ Bergin said.
In 1983, China entered the region after signing an agreement called the Antarctic Treaty System. Since then, China has expanded its influence in the area. Australia has territorial claims over 42 per cent of Antarctica and operates four research facilities in the region. Despite having no territorial claims in the region, China has constructed four research stations within a matter of three decades and is in the effort to set up the fifth one as well. Apart from that, China has also deployed two enormous ice breakers and fishing boats in the region.
Bergin has warned that the growing investments of China’s public and private companies in the Antarctic were a warning bell. While issuing the warning, the Australian analyst has provided reference to the Chinese activities in the South China Sea. As China pursued fishing and oil exploration, it gradually constructed artificial islands and has even initiated military deployments to them. China is pushing its private companies into the region under the pretext of fishing and research stations. The intrusion of China’s public and private companies in the Antarctic as per Xi Jinping’s latest strategy may turn into the most significant worry for Australia.
According to President Xi’s policy, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has the authority to take over the private companies at any time. The US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has pinpointed this very fact and expressed concerns over China’s growing investments in the US technology sector. Australia must not remain under the impression that China will not expand its military influence in Antarctica like in the South China Sea, Bergin cautioned.
Antarctica has significant mineral deposits and holds great military and strategic significance. Therefore, the advancements of an overambitious country, such as China, for establishing supremacy in the Antarctic, may prove dangerous not only to Australia but also other countries. As China prepares to assert its superiority over the militarily and strategically significant marine region, the countries threatened by it, appear to have united against China. The United States, Japan, as also Australia, are at its forefront. Moreover, the report ‘Eyes Wide Open’ once again underscores that Australia is closely watching China’s every move in the region.