OSLO (Reuters) – The U.S. will open its northernmost diplomatic station in the Norwegian Arctic town of Tromsoe, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday, at a time when cooperation among the Arctic nations has been hit by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The region is becoming strategically more important as a shrinking ice cap opens up new sea lanes and attracts other nations seeking its largely untapped natural resources.
“To deepen our own engagement in the high north, I am announcing today the United States will be opening an American presence post in Tromsoe,” Blinken told reporters after a two-day meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Oslo.
“For us, the presence post in Tromsoe is really an ability to have a diplomatic footprint above the Arctic Circle,” he said.
His announcement comes three weeks after Norway took over from Russia the chairmanship of the Arctic Council, a forum created in 1996 to discuss issues affecting the polar region.
It comprises the eight Arctic states of Russia, the United States, Canada, Finland, Norway, Iceland, Sweden and Denmark.
Cooperation between the Western Arctic states and Moscow on the Arctic body is frozen since the invasion of Ukraine.
On Thursday, Blinken said the U.S. approach was focused on increasing diplomacy in the region.
“Our entire approach is to make sure that the Arctic remains an area of peaceful cooperation,” he said.
(Reporting by Gwladys Fouche and Terje Solsvik, editing by Essi Lehto and Sriraj Kalluvila)