Japan, China and South Korea agreed Thursday to conduct a joint study to assess pollution and climate impacts in the Arctic, wrapping up their latest talks on how to develop the region, Japanese officials said.
The agreement on joint scientific research and exploration comes amid increased global attention on navigation and resource development in the Arctic Ocean, which hosts untapped oil, gas and rare earth metal deposits. Due to the rapidly melting ice, countries are keen to open new routes to slash transport times between Europe and Asia.
Under the agreement reached during high-level talks at the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo, the three countries will collect basic data, including on the levels of marine pollution in the Arctic Ocean, according to the officials.
“It is indispensable for the international community to ensure the protection and preservation of the fragile marine environment of the Arctic Ocean, and maintain peace, stability and constructive cooperation based on a rule-based maritime order,” the joint statement issued after the talks said.
The countries hope to use the data collected to ensure the environment is protected during development work and predict the best timing for navigation in the Arctic Ocean, the officials said, adding experts will work out the specifics of the trilateral study.
Japan, China and South Korea will also cooperate with the Arctic Council, having joined the eight-nation, intergovernmental body in 2013 as observers.
The council, designed to address environmental and development issues in the region, comprises Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States.
The three Asian countries held their first trilateral talks on Arctic issues in April last year in Seoul.
The second and latest talks were attended by Kazuko Shiraishi, Japan’s ambassador in charge of Arctic affairs, and her South Korean and Chinese counterparts, Kim Young-jun and Gao Feng, respectively. The third round of talks will be held next year in China.
Japan, China and South Korea agreed in summit talks in November 2015 to cooperate on Arctic development. Just a month before, the Japanese government adopted its first basic Arctic policy, seeking a key role in the future formulation of international rules for Arctic development.