Aussie think tank believes China's new Antarctic base has strategic and military implications
China is to build a large new Antarctic base near New Zealand's Scott Base in a move an Australian state-funded think tank believes has strategic and military implications.
It may also have benefits for Christchurch, which will offer the easiest gateway to the new base.
China, India and South Korea are ramping up their moves in the region while Canberra is backing off, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (Aspi) says in Cold calculations: Australia's Antarctic challenges published today.
The report reveals China this year surveyed New Zealand's Ross Sea area and decided to build its fourth base on the continent 300 kilometres north of Scott Base at Terra Nova Bay. Italy and South Korea already have bases there.
Qu Tanzhou, head of China's Antarctic expedition team, said the new base will be built by 2015.
Aspi said China was also building a new icebreaker to service the new base and the existing three in the Australian Antarctic Territory (AAT).
Underlining the region's strategic significance, Aspi said Iran was planning to build a polar base that would include space-related research among its activities.
While the Antarctic Treaty demilitarised the region, it was no longer demilitarised, Aspi said.
"Scientific research and development for military purposes can be carried out by civilian scientists and private sector contractors," the report said.
"Antarctic bases are increasingly used for 'dual use' scientific research that's useful for military purposes, including possibly for controlling offensive weapon systems."
Private security contractors perform many tasks for the military, including research and development, engineering and maintenance, program management, intelligence analysis and security for military facilities.
"The intensity of peacetime technical intelligence collection is increasing," Aspi said.
Countries could use Antarctic bases as ground stations for monitoring and controlling satellite systems.
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