REYKJAVIK: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in NATO ally Iceland's capital Reykjavik on Friday (Feb 15) and said he would be discussing security relations as well as China and Russia's growing presence in the Arctic.
Pompeo's visit comes amid increased interest in the Arctic, which has big reserves of oil, gas, gold, diamonds, zinc and iron. And with global warming melting polar ice, it may offer world powers new shipping routes - and naval interests - for trade between Asia, Europe and America’s east coast.
"Iceland sits in a strategic place in the world. The issue of the Arctic is important to the United States as well as a security matter," Pompeo told reporters in his first visit to Iceland. "Certainly the Russian and Chinese presence here is something we will talk about as well," he added.
Iceland will soon chair the Arctic Council, which comprises Canada, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, the United States and Denmark, all of which have territory inside the Arctic Circle.
The organisation, which coordinates Arctic policy, is gaining clout as sea ice thaws to open up new trade routes and intensify competition for its as yet undiscovered oil and gas reserves.
There have been talks about a reform of the council's organisation, objectives and work, and those are expected to intensify during Iceland's upcoming chairmanship.
With ice receding faster than many had expected, some estimates suggest the polar ice cap could disappear completely during the summer months by as soon as 2040, perhaps much earlier.