Photo Gallery China Joins Race for Arctic Resources

The Arctic is changing at a breathtaking pace, which has oil and gas companies flocking to the region. But the international community is increasingly concerned about resource extraction and China's role in the High North.
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A ship sails by the Svalbard Islands in Norway in June 2012. According to statistics from the American National Snow and Ice Data Center, Arctic sea ice covers 3.41 million square kilometers. A wealth of untapped resources lie below.

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In August, 2012, Greenpeace activists protested the Gazprom 'Prirazlomnaya' oil-drilling platform in the Barents Sea, off the ArCtic Ocean. The Russian company is trying to become the first to begin commercial oil extraction offshore in the Arctic.

Foto: AFP / Greenpeace / Denis Sinyakov
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The climate around the Arctic is changing rapidly. The sea ice was recorded at a record low once again in 2011, some 760,000 square kilometers under the previous low, set in 2007.

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Carl Gladish, an Arctic researcher from New York University, hammers a GPS seismometer into the Jakobshavn Glacier --- part of the Greenland ice sheet -- to track glacial movement. Scientists are trying their best to follow how much ice the island is losing per year.

Foto: Brennan Linsley/ AP
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In October 2012, the Arctic research vessel Sikuliaq was launched into the Menomonee River in Marinette, Wiscosin. The vessel will be used for arctic research -- exploring new trade routes, researching eco-tourism possibilities and watching offshore petroleum development -- off the coast of Alaska in 2014.

Foto: AP / National Science Foundation
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Greenpeace activists conceived this demonstration in September 2012 on an ice floe in the Arctic Circle as an appeal to the United Nations General Assembly to take action to protect the region's natural resources. Flags of all 193 member nations were used to form a heart shape a few centimeters above the ice.

Foto: Danile Beltra/ dpa
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As the vast potential of the Arctic Ocean becomes clearer, countries including the United States are building up a military presence in the region. In March 2011, a US Navy Sea Wolf-class nuclear submarine surfaced through ice in the Arctic Ocean.

Foto: AP / US Navy / Christy Hagen
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China has sent this ice-breaker, Snow Dragon, through the Arctic Ocean a total of five times. The country, a new player in the region, is interested in finding shorter trade routes -- as well as natural resources.

Foto: STR/ AFP
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States around the North Pole keep careful and regular watch on visitors from China. Its "growing interest in the region raises concern -- even alarm -- in the international community," the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) recently wrote. And this despite the fact that "the Arctic is not a foreign policy priority" for Beijing. Here, members of a Chinese research team raise the flag at a research station in Svalbard, Norway, in October 2001.

Foto: AP/ Xinhua
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US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton signs the Nuuk Declaration at a meeting of the Arctic Council in Nuuk, Greenland, in May 2011. It includes a section on environment and climate change and how to minimize its impact in the region.

Foto: Ulrik Bang/ dpa
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A Greenpeace activist in a polar bear costume sits inside a Russian police car outside Gazprom headquarters in Moscow in September. Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia and the United States are facing the reality that other countries are becoming more interested in the region.

Foto: Misha Japaridze/ AP
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