China’s assistant foreign minister visits Antarctica

A Chinese delegation led by assistant foreign minister (部长助理) Kong Xuanyou 孔铉佑 visited King George island, one of the South Shetlands some 120 km off the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. The visit was organised by the Foreign Ministry, the State Ocean Administration (SOA, 海洋局) and the Communist Party’s Central Foreign Affairs Office (CFOA, 中央外办).

Between Dec 25th and 28th, the delegation visited Korea’s King Sejong Station (세종기지), as well as Russian, Uruguayan and Chilean bases, and of course China’s own Great Wall Station (长城站). After that, they set off for Punta Arenas, Chile, to visit that country’s Antarctic Institute (Instituto Antártico Chileno, INACH). Current cooperation in Antarctic science between China and Chile includes a recent scientific workshop in Punta Arenas and a joint expedition planned for this season.

Meanwhile on the continent, the 32th Antarctic expedition progresses inland, this year divided in two teams. One of them reached Kunlun Station (昆仑站) soon before the end of the year. They were expected to climb Dome A on Dec 31th, where they would plant a flag. Dome A, the highest point on the ice sheet and possibly the coldest place on Earth, has long been a focus of Chinese research. Kunlun station is just a few miles from the Dome. At over 4000 m above sea level, it’s the highest Antarctic station.

China is testing new toys in Antarctica this Southern summer. The country’s first polar fixed-wing aircraft, the Xueying 雪鹰 (‘Snow Eagle’) 601 reached the South Pole in late November. While the plane is American-made (namely a Basler BT-67), China’s first polar all-terrain vehicle, also being used for the first time in Antarctica on the 32th expedition, was developed by Jonyang 詹阳, a joint venture of Singapore’s ST Engineering with the Guizhou city government.