May 6, 2019

Pompeo says reductions in Arctic ice offer "new opportunities for trade"

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks on Arctic policy at the Lappi Areena in Rovaniemi, Finland on Monday. Photo: Mendel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told diplomats at a meeting of the Arctic Council in Finland on Monday that the rapidly warming Arctic region presents a land of "opportunity and abundance," citing untapped resources like oil, gas, uranium and gold and rare earth minerals.

"And its centerpiece, the Arctic Ocean, is rapidly taking on new strategic significance. Offshore resources, which are helping the respective coastal states, are the subject of renewed competition. Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passage ways and new opportunities for trade."

Why it matters: As Axios Science editor Andrew Freedman explains, the Arctic is warming at more than twice the rate of the rest of the globe, setting in motion the transformation of a once-frozen region. Melting sea ice is quickly making the Far North more accessible, and marine traffic from container ships and cruise vessels is becoming more common, particularly in Russian and Canadian waters. As one of 8 Arctic nations, the U.S. plays a key role in setting policy for the region.

Details: In his speech, Pompeo also pointedly warned about China and Russia's growing "aggressive behavior" in the Arctic.

  • "Do we want the Arctic Ocean to transform into a new South China Sea, fraught with militarization and competing territorial claims?” he asked.
  • Pompeo later added: "We know Russian territorial ambitions can turn violent,” pointing to the conflict in Ukraine. "Just because the Arctic is a place of wilderness does not mean it should become a place of lawlessness."
  • As for the U.S., Pompeo said the Trump administration is boosting security and diplomatic presence with new military exercises, icebreakers and expanding Coast Guard operations.

Yes, but: Pompeo’s remark shocked many diplomats and observers, who said the council was intended to address climate change, not security issues.

"Everything has been focused on constructive cooperation where you don’t bring outside problems in. All of a sudden, the speech today shifted everyone’s attention to, ‘Are we looking at next conflict in Arctic?’ when the real issue here is still climate change. No speech will change that."
— Malgorzata Smieszek, a political scientist and a fellow at the International Arctic Science Committee, told the New York Times.
"The Arctic is changing fast. Global warming will change the environmental and economic landscapes of the region. New sea routes and easier access to natural resources will become a reality."
— Finnish Foreign Minister Timo Soini, per the AP.

According to the AP, Pompeo’s 2,400-word speech did not once mention the words "climate change."

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Italy reports lowest number of new coronavirus cases since February

Italy’s aerobatic team Frecce Tricolori fly over Milan in Duomo Square on May 25. Photo: Francesco Prandoni/Getty Images

The Italian government reported 300 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, the lowest daily increase since Feb. 29.

Why it matters: Italy, the first country in Europe to implement a nationwide lockdown after emerging as a hotspot in March, appears to have finally weathered its coronavirus outbreak. Italy has reported nearly 33,000 total deaths, the third-highest total behind the U.S. and U.K.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 5,453,784 — Total deaths: 345,886 — Total recoveries — 2,191,310Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 1,651,254 — Total deaths: 97,850 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,915Map.
  3. World: Top Boris Johnson aide defends himself after allegations he broke U.K. lockdown — WHO suspends trial of hydroxychloroquine over safety concerns.
  4. 2020: Trump threatens to move Republican convention from North Carolina — Joe Biden makes first public appearance in two months.
  5. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks over Memorial Day.
  6. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Charities refocus their efforts to fill gaps left by government.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Joe Biden makes first public appearance in over two months

Photo: Oliver Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden made his first in-person appearance in over two months on Monday to honor Memorial Day by laying a wreath at a Delaware veterans park, AP reports.

Why it matters: Biden, the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee, has taken the unprecedented step of campaigning from his home during the coronavirus pandemic, ever since canceling a rally in Cleveland on March 10.