With Trade Tensions High, Pompeo Faults China Over Arctic Stance

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said China is entitled to “exactly nothing” in the Arctic, rejecting any claim it may have on the resource-rich region and highlighting another area of dispute after President Donald Trump threatened new tariffs.

Pompeo, speaking in Rovaniemi, Finland, before a meeting of the Arctic Council, painted a dire picture of what the Arctic might look like if China were allowed broad leeway in the region, warning of ecological devastation and reiterating what he called the threat posed by Chinese debt and shoddy infrastructure projects. China declared itself a “near-Arctic state” in early 2018.

“Beijing claims to be a near-Arctic state, yet the shortest distance between China and the Arctic Circle is 900 miles,” Pompeo said. “There are only Arctic states and non-Arctic States. No third category exists -- and claiming otherwise entitles China to exactly nothing.”

Pompeo’s aggressive stance came a day after Trump threw trade talks with China into doubt by threatening to escalate tariffs by the end of this week. The threat prompted Chinese officials to consider delaying trade talks set to take place in the U.S.

The speech in Finland is part of a broader administration effort to highlight U.S. claims on the Arctic and the reserves of oil, natural gas, gold and other resources there. Pompeo also had sharp words for Russia, accusing it of a pattern of aggressive behavior, including increased militarization and demanding other nations request permission to pass through the Northern Sea Route.

Pompeo was set to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov later Monday, and was expected to hammer him over U.S. accusations that President Vladimir Putin’s government is propping up President Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela.

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