China unveiled its ambitions to develop a "Polar Silk Road" through the Arctic, joining a multinational race to exploit opportunities in the resource-rich region, as the shipping lanes opened up by global warming.
China said it would encourage enterprises to build infrastructure and conduct commercial trial voyages, paving the way for Arctic shipping routes, in its first official Arctic policy white paper.
"China hopes to work with all parties to build a 'Polar Silk Road' through developing the Arctic shipping routes," the paper, issued by the State Council Information Office, said.
According to various media reports, China would work with Russia and other Arctic countries to develop the polar route. It is part of an ambitious bigger scheme to transform China's land and sea connections to Europe and beyond.
Xi's Belt and Road initiative aims to connect China to Europe, the Middle East and beyond via massive infrastructure projects across dozens of countries, reflecting the president's desire for China to take on a more prominent global leadership role.
However, Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou on Friday dismissed concerns that China "may plunder resources or damage the environment," saying they are "absolute unnecessary."
"China's policy goals on the Arctic are: to understand, protect, develop and participate in the governance of the Arctic, so as to safeguard the common interests of all countries and the international community in the Arctic, and promote sustainable development of the Arctic," the paper said.
China, despite being a non-Arctic state, is increasingly active in the polar region and became an observer member of the Arctic Council in 2013.