US Defence Secretary Mark Esper sworn in, will be directed to identify a site for a “strategic Arctic port” if the US military’s annual authorisation bill is passed by the Senate.

The Senate will vote on the 2020 National Defence Authorisation Act next week and will require Esper to submit a report to Congress that evaluates potential sites, and to choose one or more of them within 90 days.

The call for a Port, possibly in Alaska, is a response to the withdrawal of Arctic sea ice, which is increasing the importance of the “northern route” between Asia and Europe and creating the opportunity to exploit oil and gas deposits.

It also follows plans by China to use the route as a “northern silk road” to halve the time it takes for a container to reach Rotterdam from Shanghai, and Russia’s building of military bases in the region, most notably the Northern Clover air defence base at the Franz Joseph Land in northern Siberia.

Admiral James Foggo, commander of US Navy in Europe, commented earlier this month in a podcast: “The opening of the Arctic is an opportunity to work collaboratively with other nations to maintain security and stability in the region and with those who are willing to help maintain the freedom of the seas.”