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SEOUL, March 18 (Yonhap) -- South Korea has fulfilled its obligations in terms of economy, environment and security to join the Arctic Council and Seoul's bid to be a permanent observer enjoys "strong" support from Sweden, which holds the chair of the council, Stockholm's ambassador to Seoul said Monday.
South Korea is revving up its campaign to join the eight-country council, which includes five Nordic countries plus Canada, Russia and the United States, with both environmental and economic interests in the Arctic region growing in recent years.
"The Swedish position is that we think the Korean application is a very strong one. We would welcome Korea as a permanent observer if elected," Swedish Ambassador to South Korea Lars Danielsson, told Yonhap News Agency in an interview.
Danielsson made the remarks on the sidelines of an international forum in Seoul on policy issues regarding the Arctic region, hosted by South Korea's foreign ministry as part of its latest push to join the council.
"What is required is a consensus among all the present council members and we are now trying to form such a consensus," Danielsson said. "But, our principle position is that we would very much welcome Korea."
Asked what specific actions South Korea should take to join the council, Danielsson replied, "I think that South Korea has already done what is necessary to qualify for the permanent observership."
"You have shown strong interests in environmental aspects, economic aspects and in the security aspects of the Arctic region," the ambassador said.
"Since South Korea is a very strong sea ferry nation, it means that you have every interest and right, I think, to become a common active observer," Danielsson said.
Currently, South Korea is an "ad-hoc observer" at the council, along with China and Japan, and is bidding for permanent observer status with the aim of securing a bigger voice in the increasingly influential forum.
The Arctic is one of the last-remaining regions in the world with large untapped reserves of oil and gas as well as increasingly important rare earth materials. Though their acquisition has been considered difficult, development possibilities have increased due to global warming.
Danielsson warned nations against prioritizing resource developments in the region, urging the world to be "strong enough and wise enough to concentrate on the principle long-term issues, not only looking at the short-term possibilities for more resources."
"Rather than talking about a 'race for resources,' we should be talking about a 'race for cooperation,'" the ambassador said.
"Because we have a special responsibility to our children and grandchildren to ensure that this part of the globe continues to be a unique part of the world, while at the same time, we can use the economic benefits of getting a much shorter route for ships from this part of the world to my part of the world," Danielsson said.
"So it's a win-win situation if we act responsibly," he said.
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