May 30, 2023

Taylor Daily Press

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Why is China building a new research station in Antarctica?

China has built its first new research station in Antarctica since 2018. It is a large building with an area of ​​five thousand square meters. who appears from Satellite images from the American think tank CSIS. US analysts fear China could use the station to eavesdrop on other countries — notably Australia and New Zealand, where tensions have risen regularly in recent years.

1Can Antarctic countries do as they please?

In 1959, in the middle of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union succeeded an agreement About Antarctica, which has now been joined by 56 countries, including the Netherlands. The treaty bans military activity and instead encourages scientific research. It was also stipulated that the search results should be made available to everyone.

“There were already countries that made a territorial claim to parts of Antarctica,” says NOS glaciologist and meteorologist Peter Kuipers Munneke, who has conducted research himself in Antarctica, “such as Chile, Argentina, Norway and England.” In the treaty, the signatories do not waive those claims, which are not recognized by other countries and the United Nations, but are frozen as is.

It was later added to the treaty that no mining was allowed in and around Antarctica. Therefore, it is not permissible to search for oil or other raw materials.

The purpose of the treaty is for the continent to remain peaceful and pure. “However, for strategic reasons, many countries want to be present with a research station in the Antarctic,” says Kuipers-Monecke. It also allows them to consolidate their existing territorial claims.”

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2 Why is China expanding its presence in Antarctica?

This is not clear. China already had two permanent research stations on the coast of Antarctica, which were within easy reach of two icebreakers, both named Xue Long (Snow Dragon). In addition, China has set up a base station and camp at the highest point in the Antarctic, where advanced satellite equipment has been placed.

The new research station is located on Incredible Island near the Ross Sea. This places it within the historic territorial claim of New Zealand and close to the boundaries of the claim of Australia, which covers 42 percent of the continent. The new station is also close to the US research station McMurdo, on Ross Island, which is the largest base in Antarctica.

According to the US think tank CSIS, the new Chinese station has an observatory with a well-placed space station to collect intelligence on Australia and New Zealand. It will also collect data on rockets launched from the new Arnhem Space Center in Australia. Antarctica is very suitable for spy satellites because there is so little radiation that it can disrupt communication.

In a 2022 report, the Pentagon, the US Department of Defense, wrote that the Chinese military uses Antarctica for various purposes. For example, the research stations will also serve as a receiving base for Chinese Beidou navigation satellites, a competitor to the US GPS.

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“As a superpower, China is becoming more and more like America,” says France-Paul van der Putten, an expert on China and geopolitics, who also applies to Chinese activities in Antarctica. China is doing what the Americans have been doing for a long time. One of those things is building science stations in the Antarctic.”

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3 So China is doing what the West has been doing for a long time?

You can already say that. So the Western concerns are a bit hypocritical, say some analysts. “You certainly can’t rule out the possibility that China is already using the new research station to eavesdrop on other countries,” says van der Putten. And this is exactly what Americans have been doing for a long time.” Sinologist Ingrid de Hoog van Klingendael sees this as well. What China may do, other countries may do as well. China is building a massive capacity, and they also want to sit at the table in that region. However, China is still striving to comply with the rules.”

China itself has categorically denied all allegations that the search stations are being used for espionage.