BEIJING - China has the support of Sweden to become a permanent observer at the eight-member Arctic Council, part of Beijing's plan to seek a more active role in the region, a deputy Chinese foreign minister said Monday.

China has economic and scientist interests in the Arctic and will further its co-operation with Arctic countries to promote stability and development in the region, Song Tao told reporters at a briefing on Premier Wen Jiabao's upcoming visits to Iceland, Sweden, Germany and Poland.

"China applauds Swedish support for China to be an observer to the Arctic Council," Song said.

Iceland and Sweden are members of the Arctic Council, an eight-nation grouping that addresses Arctic issues.

Song said China wants to explore geothermal energy and study the North Pole and northern lights in the Arctic. Analysts say China is also interested in new Arctic shipping routes.

China has one icebreaker, the Snow Dragon, and plans to add a 8,000-ton vessel in 2014, according to China analysts Andrew Erickson and Gabe Collins.

A recent decision by Denmark to prioritize its economic relationship with China is allowing Beijing to expand its presence in the resource-rich Arctic, Erickson and Collins wrote in a January article for the China Real Time Report.

Wen expects to sign an agreement on energy conservation and environmental protection with Sweden and will seek further economic ties with Iceland, Song said. Wen's visit is the first by a Chinese premier to Iceland in 40 years.