Finland Says China Promised Full Cooperation in Pipeline Probe
Finland on Wednesday said China had promised to fully cooperate in the investigation of the destruction last month of the Balticconnector gas pipeline, which happened on the same night that three subsea telecoms cables in the area were also damaged.
Finnish police have said they are investigating whether a Hong Kong registered container vessel, the NewNew Polar Bear, damaged the pipeline by dragging its anchor over the sea bed, but have not concluded whether this was an accident or not.
An anchor believed to belong to the Chinese ship was later found near the pipeline at the bottom of the Baltic Sea, and was retrieved by Finnish investigators.
"They (China) have promised full cooperation and we trust it," Finnish Foreign Minister Elina Valtonen told Reuters on the sidelines of a news conference in Helsinki.
"Now that the investigation is progressing, and it is currently at the official level, I believe that the Chinese authorities will not only take it seriously, but will also fully cooperate with us," she said.
Two telecoms cables linking Estonia to Finland and Sweden were damaged on the same night between Oct.7-8, authorities said last month, and Russia's Rostelecom on Tuesday revealed that one of its fiber optic cables had also been hit.
Data from shipping intelligence firm MarineTraffic, reviewed by Reuters, showed that the NewNew Polar Bear passed over the pipeline and the telecoms cables in the space of less than nine hours.
Rostelecom will, however, not seek compensation for the damage to its cable and will complete the repair at its own expense, a company source told Reuters on Wednesday.
China has previously said it is willing to provide necessary information on the incident in accordance with international law. NewNew Shipping, the owner and operator of the NewNew Polar Bear, has previously declined to comment when contacted by Reuters.
Finland has informed Russia about its investigation into the damage to the Balticconnector pipeline, but Moscow did not seek Helsinki's help to investigate the cable breach, Valtonen told reporters on Wednesday.
The incidents have highlighted the vulnerability of marine cables and pipelines at a time when security fears are running high because of the Ukraine war. Investigators have yet to establish who was responsible for blowing up Russia's Nord Stream gas pipelines under the Baltic Sea last year.
(Reuters - Reporting by Anne Kauranen and Simon Johnson, writing by Anna Ringstrom and Terje Solsvik, editing by Christina Fincher)