By Pekka Vanttinen
(EurActiv) — The city of Kemijärvi in Finnish Lapland turned down an offer made in January 2018 by China’s state-funded Polar Research Institute to buy or lease the city’s airport, after it informed the Finnish Armed Forces. But the matter is only now being made public.
The Chinese delegation included members from the country’s Polar Research Institute, the Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration, and an assistant to the military attaché from the embassy, the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) reported Thursday.
China wished to finance a new runway with renovations worth about €40 million for an airport that would be used to carry out research and observation flights over the Arctic Ocean, the North Pole, and the Northeast Passage. Funding for a new research laboratory was also envisaged.
News of the secretive plan surprised both the University of Lapland and its Arctic Centre who had previously collaborated with Chinese researchers.
According to the Finnish military, the airport is situated close to their strategically important firing range, so expansion would not have been possible. Moreover, such a proposal would be unrealistic given EU legislation from October 2020 restricting foreign investments.
China currently has research centres in the Arctic region in Greenland, Iceland, and the Svalbard archipelago.