China's Antarctic explorations peacefully intended, cooperative

Updated: 2014-02-08 21:04


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China's Antarctic explorations peacefully intended, cooperative

China's fourth Antarctic research base Taishan station in this undated photo. [Photo/Xinhua]

BEIJING - The opening of China's fourth Antarctic research base is yet another step forward in the country's ambitious plan to study Antarctica, and further contributes to the peaceful use of this icy continent.

The Taishan station, located between China's two existing Zhongshan and Kunlun stations at an altitude of 2,600 meters, can accommodate up to 20 people during the Antarctic summer.

According to the State Oceanic Administration (SOA), the Taishan station can be used for scientific observation, accommodation, power generation, storage, machinery maintenance, communication and emergency shelter. It also has oil storage installations and equipment to support a 400-tonne inland transportation vehicle fleet.

Its opening will most certainly bring new opportunities for international cooperation in Antarctic research.

With 95 percent of its land covered by snow and ice, Antarctica holds huge mineral resources and the surrounding seas are full of bio-resources under its continental shelf.

The colossal deposits of natural resources help explain the territorial bickering by a number of countries and the fact that dozens of countries now operate seasonal and perennial bases on the frozen land.

A latecomer to Antarctic research, China has made stunning headway in the past three decades.

The country launched its first Antarctic expedition in 1984, and inaugurated the Great Wall station the following year, more than eight decades after Argentina opened the first continually staffed base.

It opened the Zhongshan and Kunlun stations in 1989 and 2009 respectively. The latter stands at more than 4,000 meters above sea level on one of Antarctica's highest ice caps.

According to the SOA, another perennial station will be built in Antarctica's Victoria Land by the end of 2015. It will allow researchers to carry out multi-disciplinary research on bio-ecology and satellite remote sensing.

Nevertheless, China's explorations of the icy continent have always been peacefully intended and cooperative.

In 1983, China acceded to the Antarctic Treaty, which sets aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve, establishes freedom of scientific investigation and bans military activity on the continent.

The country maintains no territorial claims in Antarctica, and takes part in the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs, and the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research.

"Peaceful use of Antarctica in the future will be a blessing for all humankind," SOA deputy director Chen Lianzeng told Xinhua.

China is willing to cooperate with other nations through the platform of the Kunlun station, and make due contribution to exploring the two polar regions, he said.

During a visit to the SOA in late January, Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli also called for more exchanges with the international community in research in polar regions and oceans, and sharing of resources to achieve mutual benefits.

A Chinese research vessel's escape through heavy sea ice after evacuating 52 people from a Russian ship trapped in Antarctica spotlights China's peaceful ambitions in Antarctica.

The Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, icebreaker was on China's 30th scientific expedition to Antarctica when it received a distress signal from the trapped Russian ship Akademik Shokalskiy on December 25, 2013.

Its helicopter evacuated 52 people from the vessel, but Xuelong's own movement was blocked afterward by a kilometer-long iceberg, and it was unable to maneuver through the ice until two weeks later.

China has the right to explore Antarctica in a peaceful manner under the Antarctic Treaty, and cooperation will remain key to the country's Antarctic ambitions.