A battle over the 460,000 square miles of Arctic Ocean seabed, and the estimated one-quarter of the Earth’s oil reserves it is thought to hold, is shaping up for this week’s Arctic Ocean Summit.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the region may hold up to 25 percent of the world’s oil, and although Russian planted a titanium flag under the North Pole in a territorial marking of the seabed last year, control over the area and its assets still is far from resolved.

Officials from the United States, Norway, Russia, Denmark and Canada are meeting in Greenland to discuss the area, and Carl Olson, chairman of State Department Watch, a nonpartisan foreign policy watchdog group, says the results of the fight for sovereignty on the northernmost part of the Earth is of great importance to Americans.


“We urge Secretary [of State Condoleezza] Rice to resist any takeover of the North Pole area because it threatens the rights of Americans to the open ocean and seabeds,” he said.

The other nations are claiming the North Pole ocean area based on the Law of the Sea Treaty, which the U.S. has not officially approved, according to Olson.

According to the State Department Watch, the treaty would “allow countries to take over oceans and seabeds beyond the already existing 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zones under the theory of underwater outercontinental shelf extensions.”

While President Ronald Reagan opposed the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush have supported ratification.
Research Fellows Baker Spring, Steven Groves and Brett D. Schaefer noted many reasons to oppose ratifying LOST in a September 2007 Heritage Foundation publication.

According to the researchers, the treaty would undermine U.S. sovereignty, it would jumpstart efforts of environmentalists, simultaneously requiring the U.S. to implement environmental legislation, and it would undermine U.S. military and intelligence operations.

But Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte and other State Department officials are representing the U.S. in Ilulissat, Greenland, until Thursday. In June 2007, Negroponte and Gordon England, deputy secretary of defense, supported the U.S. entrance into the Convention on the Law of the Sea in a Washington Times column.

The column asserted that entrance would give the U.S. a “voice in the debates to help shape the future development of oceans law, policy and practice,” and would “protect and advance the nation’s national security, economic and environmental interests in the maritime domain.” Negroponte claims that entrance would possibly extend the U.S. claims in the Arctic shelf to 600 nautical miles.

A State Department statement said of this week’s conference, “Deputy Secretary Negroponte looks forward to these discussions as well as bilateral meetings with his counterparts.”

Olson and his group claim that five “American Arctic islands” are in jeopardy of being taken over by Russia: Wrangel, Herald, Bennett, Jeannette and Henrietta. But the State Department affirms that although Americans discovered and explored some of these islands, the five islands north of Russia were not included in the 1867 purchase of Alaska from Russia.

Olson said, “The Arctic Ocean should remain a free and open ocean for all peoples and not under the closure by any country or the United Nations.”

In years past, Canada and Russia have debated who has rightful rule of the underwater Lomonosov Ridge, and Canada has disagreed with Denmark over which of the two countries owns Hans Island.


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