China to boost Antarctic access with new airstrip

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China has announced that work will begin to build an airport in Antarctica in November.

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Chinese researchers have begun preliminary work on the construction of the airport that will be capable of servicing the Chinese Snow Eagle 601, a small polar plane, according to Keiji Daily, an official newspaper of the Ministry of Science and Technology of the People’s Republic of China.

The report said the airfield is expected to be completed in a couple of years and will be used for scientific expeditions and tourist groups, facilitating the access to the region, and enhancing China’s scientific capacity in the Antarctic.

Up to now, Chinese operations had relied on a Russian airport.

Video shows Chinese polar fixed-wing aircraft Snow Eagle 601 successfully landing at the airport on Dome A of Kunlun Station, a Chinese scientific research base in Antarctica.

 

“As a major scientific research country, China needs to ensure the logistical support of its Antarctic activities, which is why the construction of the new airport is of great importance … and provides support for the management of airspace in China in Antarctica, “wrote the newspaper. “In the future [the airport] will provide guarantees for large aircraft and an air fleet”.

Schematic diagram of the distribution of Chinese Antarctic scientific research stations
Schematic diagram of the distribution of Chinese Antarctic scientific research stations

Several countries already manage dozens of landing sites on Antarctica able to manage small research vehicles. The United States handles about a fifth.

In any case, the growing interest in the region and the resources of the region, and the future importance of this trade route have led China to invest heavily in Antarctica.

In just 10 years, China has become a marginal interpreter in the arctic areas, a protagonist, said Anne’Marie Brady, professor of political science at the University of Canterbury and editor of the Polar Journal.

The polar regions, the sea depths, and space are the new strategic territories where China will try to become a global power.

In January, China issued a document outlining strategies to build a “polar silk road”, creating corridors in the region now that global warming is causing ice melting.

The Chinese government is currently the most investing in Antarctica. Most Chinese activities take place on the territory claimed by Australia, with the support of the Australian authorities. Only UK, New Zealand, France, and Norway, however, recognize the claims of Australia on the territory.

Seven countries are claiming parts of the Antarctic: Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.

chinese-researchers-antartica
Chinese researchers in Antartica

Sources: Financial Times; Baike

Image: People.com.cn , Baike Baidu

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