The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy in the Arctic Ocean, July 12, 2011.
Courtesy Reuters

The countries of Asia are looking north, toward the Arctic. At last year’s Arctic Council ministerial meeting, held in May in Sweden, applications for permanent observer status were accepted from China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore, as well as Italy. In the run-up to this year’s meeting, all eyes will be on the observers. It is difficult to exaggerate the significance of the council’s expansion to Asia, particularly to the continent’s powerhouses -- China, Japan, and India -- which underscores the Arctic’s strategic value to the global economy.

For a long time, the Arctic

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