China’s expansionist ambitions have been given a boost by the opening up of the northern route to the North Atlantic, the most senior UK naval officer has said.

The Northern Sea Route along the length of Russia is now passable to shipping during August, September and October.

Admiral Tony Radakin, the UK’s first sea lord, said: “Climate change is a concern for all of us, but it is opening up new maritime trade routes across the top of the world, halving the transit time between Europe and Asia. And we sit at the gateway to those routes.”

He was speaking from the new £3.1 billion Prince of Wales aircraft carrier in Portsmouth on Thursday last week, ahead of a UK spending review that could see Britain’s naval strength cut even further.

While the two new carriers seemingly add to Britain’s naval strength, the lack of support frigates and destroyers is causing alarm in the Navy, which has been heavily criticised by the Prime Minister’s chief advisor for squandering money on the carriers.

The Chinese navy now boasts 350 ships, the UK’s fewer than 80.

PHOTO: The British Navy’s two new aircraft carriers, the Queen Elizabeth and the Prince of Wales Ministry of Defence