China eyes up Northwest Passage in threat to Canadian sovereignty

China has declared that it plans to ship cargo through the Northwest Passage, the series of waterways in the Arctic Circle over which Canada currently claims sovereignty. Chinese maritime authorities tacitly declared the news by printing a lengthy guide to Arctic shipping and navigation and by then confirming it it to reporters working for Canada’s Globe and Mail through its spokesman  Pengfei Liu who told the newspaper that “there will be ships with Chinese flags sailing through this route in the future.” 
While Chinese state media has called the proposed shipping route a “golden waterway” for future trade as it would drastically cut travel times between China and North America,  University of Calgary Professor Rob Huebert  told the newspaper that it posed “the biggest direct challenge to Canadian sovereignty in the Northwest Passage.
Sending cargo through the Northwest Passage would shave about 4,000km  off the journey from Europe to Asia compared to the traditional route through the Panama Canal, which also can only accommodate ships of a certain size.
The prospect of the Passage becoming a source of tension between Canada and China has arisen because global warming has seen the  extent of summer ice within the Arctic Circle drop by 40% since 1979 and some experts say that by the summer of 2050 ships with no ice strengthening at all will be able to go through the Northwest Passage
However, many experts argue  there are too many drawbacks to the Northwest Passage that mean it will never amount to more than a niche transit route as it is too shallow, and its network of islands and inlets are hard to navigate. Its geography and wind currents also mean the passage remains ice covered far longer than other parts of the Arctic.

Source: time