An unusually straightforward confrontation took place at the Arctic Circle Assembly on Saturday.
Upon a speech from Dutch Navy Officer, Rob Bauer, chair of the alliance’s Military Committee, on the Arctic’s strategic relevance for NATO and their increased focus on the Arctic Region, He Rulong, China’s ambassador to Iceland, approached the Admiral from the audience and said his speech and remarks were filled with arrogance.
The Chinese ambassador reacted on Bauer confronting China’s reluctance to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine by saying China did not share the values of NATO and undermined the rule-based international order.
– I have a question for you, because you underline the principle of sovereignty and the importance of the internationally recognized borders in the world (…) So why is it possible then that China still is not condemning Russia’s attack in Ukraine?, Bauer said.
According to Bloomberg, Bauer drawed scattered laughter from the audience when he called China “the peacemaker of the World”.
Later that night, special Envoy to the Arctic for China, Feng Gao, prompted legal disputes over Norway’s upcoming chairmanship by declaring China would not support Norway’s chairmanship of the Arctic Council if Russia is still banned, despite Beijing earlier this week stated to be concerned about Moscow’s recent missile strikes on civilian targets in Ukraine.
– The Arctic Council is based on a declaration, and there is no procedure on how to leave the Council. I doubt that the chairmanship can be transferred to anyone or that Norway can take over the chair without Russia from a legal point of view, said Gao according to the High North News.
In a symbolic vote on Wednesday, the United Nations General Assembly condemned Russia’s annexation of parts of Eastern Ukraine. Thirty-five countries, including India, China, and large parts of Africa abstained from voting while five – Russia, Belarus, North Korea, Syria and Nicaragua – voted against, cuing Time Magazine to argue Russia’s allies to be not as sparse as the West might think.
The Arctic Circle Assembly is an open democratic platform with participation from governments, organizations, corporations, indigenous communities, universities, think tanks, environmental associations, concerned citizens and others with the purpose of networking on dialogue and cooperation concerning the future of the Arctic.
The Arctic Cirle Assembly differs from the Arctic Council which is an eight-country intergovernmental group with Russia holding the current chair. The Council’s meetings have been suspended since Russia invaded Ukraine.