China Could Access Northern Sea Route to Atlantic Says Britain’s First Sea Lord

October 9, 2020 Updated: October 13, 2020

As Arctic waters open up, China’s navy could access the North Atlantic through the Arctic sea route north of Britain, and pose a strategic threat to the country, according to Admiral Tony Radakin, Britain’s First Sea Lord.

In a speech on Thursday from the deck of the HMS Prince of Wales, which is docked in Her Majesty’s Naval Base in Portsmouth, Radakin said melting polar ice is “opening up new maritime trade routes across the top of the world, halving the transit time between Europe and Asia.”

HMS Queen Elizabeth
Britain’s new aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth arrives in New York on Oct. 19, 2018. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

He said Britain sits “at the gateway” of those routes.

“But when China sails its growing Navy into the Atlantic, which way will it come—the long route, or the short?” he added.

‘The Atlantic—Our Back Yard’

Radakin also said that Russia “is now more active in the Atlantic—our back yard—than it has been for over 30 years.”

Sea trade routes, he said, “are part of an £8 trillion [$10.4 trillion] global maritime trade network,” that are “veins and arteries along which the lifeblood of the world’s economy flows.”

Describing the high seas as a “global commons where nations, their navies, and above all their merchant ships can move freely” he said international rules are what the “prosperity of the whole world” depends upon.

Radakin said that though there are “those who would threaten this concept,” Britain’s Integrated Operating Concept would combat that threat by “upholding those freedoms, protecting trade, enforcing those rules.”

Integrated Operating Concept

The Integrated Operating Concept was launched by Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nick Carter to meet the “evolving character of war.”

It is described by the ministry of defense guidance published on Sept. 30 as “the most significant change in UK military thought in several generations,” which will herald a “fundamental transformation in the military instrument and the way it is used.”

HMS Prince of Wales, described by Radakin as “one of the two most modern and most efficient aircraft carriers in the world” comes with a £3.1 billion ($4 billion) price tag is one of two new aircraft carriers for the British naval fleet.

The other is HMS Queen Elizabeth, which can carry up to 40 aircraft, is described as the “largest and most powerful vessel ever constructed for the Royal Navy.”