Singapore, China, and four other countries granted observer status in Arctic Council

A fishing boat enters the harbour at the Arctic port of Svolvaer in northern Norway on March 4, 2013. Singapore, China and four other countries were granted observer status at the 8th Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council held in Kiruna, Sweden,
A fishing boat enters the harbour at the Arctic port of Svolvaer in northern Norway on March 4, 2013. Singapore, China and four other countries were granted observer status at the 8th Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council held in Kiruna, Sweden, on Wednesday, May 15, 2013. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS

Singapore, China and four other countries were granted observer status at the Arctic Council on Wednesday.

The decision was made at the 8th Ministerial Meeting of the Arctic Council held in Kiruna, Sweden. The other countries granted observer status were India, Italy, Japan and South Korea.

The council comprises eight Arctic states, including Canada, Russia and the United States.

Singapore applied for permanent observer status, which is likely to allow a country to attend council meetings and take part in working groups, in December 2011.

While Singapore has no territorial or resource claims in the Arctic, it takes a keen interest in maritime affairs as a major international port.

The emergence of new sea routes in the Arctic would reduce the distance between the North Atlantic and the North Pacific, causing shifts in shipping patterns a few months every year. The implications of these shifts could have far-reaching consequences for Singapore's economic viability and existence.

Singapore hopes to contribute its shipping-related expertise in areas such as oil spill prevention and maritime traffic management to the council.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued the following statement after the announcement:

"According to the Kiruna Declaration issued at the Arctic Council Ministerial Meeting in Kiruna, Sweden on 15 May 2013, Singapore was granted observership in the Arctic Council. In addition to Singapore, China, India, Italy, Japan and the Republic of Korea were also granted observer status.   ""Singapore submitted its application for observership in December 2011. The Arctic Council is a high-level intergovernmental forum for discussing political, economic, environmental and scientific issues concerning the governments and inhabitants of the Arctic region. The work of the Arctic Council includes issues such as sustainable development and environmental protection of the Arctic region. The Arctic Council also disseminates information, encourages education, and promotes interest in the Arctic. The members of the Arctic Council are Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia, and the United States.

"Canada takes over the two-year Chairmanship of the Arctic Council from Sweden at the Kiruna Ministerial today."