The government of Japan has submitted its application for observer status in the Arctic Council to its current chair, Norway. Though Japan does not possess any Arctic claims, the government is interested in gaining greater access to discussions and negotiations on the Arctic.
Japan could benefit heavily from the opening of the Northern Sea Route, which would establish a route circumventing the Suez Canal and shorten transit times between Asia and Europe by 40 percent.
An official at the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s Ocean Division remarked, “If Japan is admitted as an observer of the council, we’ll have the advantage of being able to collect information on matters of concern to each country related to the utilization of the Arctic Circle. We aim to join the council [with observer status] at its ministerial meeting in two years’ time.”
Arctic observer status is open to non-Arctic states, inter-governmental and inter-parliamentary organizations, and NGOs. The current observer states are China, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, the Netherlands, and the U.K.
News link: Japan seeks role in Arctic Council (The Daily Yomiuri)