Tromsø mayor grilled by spy agency on China link
The mayor of Norwegian town Tromsø, in the strategic Arctic region, said on Friday he had been "invited" to meet Norway's secret services following repeated encounters with the Chinese ambassador.
"The reason (for the meeting) may have been that they knew that I had close relations with the embassy of China," mayor Jens Johan Hjort told AFP.
The mayor said he met the Norwegian Police Security Service (PST) a day after being invited to a dinner and karaoke at the official residence in Oslo of Chinese ambassador Zhao Jun last December.
Hjort explained that he has received more than 80 ambassadors in Tromsø over the last two years, but that Zhao has been there more times than any other.
Energy-hungry China has in recent years set its eyes on the oil-rich Arctic region, which is gaining international strategic importance.
"It's not a secret that China is very interested in the development of the Arctic... but Zhao also has a passion for fishing and is quite fond of northern Norway," Hjort said.
In March 2013, China was granted permanent observer status in the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental forum grouping Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia and the US.
The Asian giant has opened an Arctic research centre in Norway's far north Svalbard archipelago, and in mid-2012 the first Chinese ice breaker travelled from the Pacific to the Atlantic via the Arctic along the Russian coast, a 40-percent shorter route to Europe, one of its major export markets.
Bilateral relations between both countries have been tense since Chinese pro-democracy jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo in 2010 received the Nobel Peace prize, awarded by the Norwegian Nobel committee.
China responded by cancelling political dialogue with Norway and suspending talks on a free trade pact.
Norwegian companies reported problems doing business with China and the country's famous salmon faced restrictions to enter the Chinese market. Commercial exchanges between both countries have continued despite the tensions.
Here is a video from May of the mayor rapping: