Territorial claims in the Arctic

Territorial claims in the Arctic

Under international law, no country currently owns the North Pole or the region of the Arctic Ocean surrounding it. The five surrounding Arctic states, Russia, the United States (via Alaska), Canada, Norway and Denmark (via Greenland), are limited to a convert|200|nmi|lk=in economic zone around their coasts. [http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070802/ts_nm/russia_arctic_dc news.yahoo.com] ]

Upon ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, a country has a ten year period to make claims to extend its 200 nautical mile zone. [cite web|url=http://www.un.org/Depts/los/convention_agreements/texts/unclos/annex2.htm|title=United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Annex 2, Article 4)|accessdate=2007-07-26] Due to this, Norway (ratified the convention in 1996http://www.un.org/Depts/los/reference_files/status2007.pdf] ), Russia (ratified in 1997), Canada (ratified in 2003) and Denmark (ratified in 2004) launched projects to base claims that certain Arctic sectors should belong to their territories. The United States has signed, but not yet ratified this treaty, although George W. Bush asked the United States Senate to ratify it on May 15, 2007 [ [http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2007/05/20070515-2.html President's Statement on Advancing U.S. Interests in the World's Oceans ] ] and on October 31, 2007, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 17-4 to send the ratification vote to the full US Senate. [Cite news|url=http://www.reuters.com/article/latestCrisis/idUSN31335584|publisher=Reuter|title=U.S. Senate panel backs Law of the Sea treaty|last=Drawbaugh|first=Kevin|date=October 31, 2007]

The status of the Arctic sea region is in dispute. While Canada, Denmark, Russia and Norway all regard parts of the Arctic seas as "national waters" or "internal waters", the United States and most European Union countries officially regard the whole region as international waters (see Northwest Passage).

North Pole and the Arctic Ocean

National Sectors: 1925–2005

In 1925, based upon the Sector Principle, Canada became the first country to extend its boundaries northward to the North Pole, at least on paper, between 60°W and 141°W longitude, a claim that is not universally recognized (there are in fact convert|415|nmi|abbr=on nautical miles, or 770 km, of ocean between the Pole and Canada's northernmost land point). Russia (35°E to 170°W) and Norway (5°E to 35°E) have made similar sector claims, as did the United States (170°W to 141°W), but that sector contained only a few islands, so the claim was not pressed. Denmark's sovereignty over all of Greenland was recognized by the United States in 1916 and by an international court in 1933. Denmark could also conceivably claim an Arctic sector (60°W to 10°W). [T. E. M. McKitterick, "The Validity of Territorial and Other Claims in Polar Regions," "Journal of Comparative Legislation and International Law," 3rd Ser., Vol. 21, No. 1. (1939), pp. 89-97. [http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=1479-5949%281939%293%3A21%3A1%3C89%3ATVOTAO%3E2.0.CO%3B2-M] ]

In the context of the Cold War, Canada sent Inuit families to the far north in the High Arctic relocation, partly to establish territoriality.

In addition, Canada claims the water between the Canadian Arctic Archipelago as its own internal waters. The United States is one of the countries which does not recognize Canada's, or any other countries', Arctic water claims, and has allegedly sent nuclear submarines under the ice near Canadian islands without requesting permission.

On April 15, 1926, the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR declared the territory between two lines (35°E and 170°W) drawn from Murmansk to the North Pole and from the Chukchi Peninsula to the North Pole to be Soviet territory. [George Ginsburgs, The Soviet Union and International Cooperation in Legal Matters, Martinus NijhoffPublishers, 1988, ISBN 0792330943, available at [http://books.google.com/books?q=Arctic++1926+april+TsIK Google Print] ]

Otherwise, until 1999 the North Pole and the major part of the Arctic Ocean had been generally considered international territory. However, due to Arctic shrinkage the polar ice has begun to recede at a rate higher than expected due to global warmingFact|date=August 2008, several countries have made moves to claim, or to enforce pre-existing claims to, the waters or seabed at the Pole.

Renewed race for the North: 2006–present

The Danish autonomous province of Greenland has the nearest coastline to the North Pole, and Denmark argues that the Lomonosov Ridge is in fact an extension of Greenland. Danish project included LORITA-1 expedition in April-May 2006 [ [http://a76.dk/expeditions_uk/lorita-1_uk/index.html LORITA-1 (Lomonosov Ridge Test of Appurtenance)] ] and will include tectonic research during LOMROG expedition, included into the 2007-2008 International Polar Year program. [ [http://www.geo.su.se/geology/marin-geovetenskap-projekt/lomrog-2007 LOMROG - Lomonosov Ridge off Greenland] ] This expedition will be held in August-September 2007. It will consist of the Swedish icebreaker "Oden" and Russian nuclear icebreaker "50 let Pobedy". The latter will lead the expedition through icefields to the place of research. [ [http://a76.dk/expeditions_uk/lomrog2007_uk/index.html LOMROG 2007 cruise with the Swedish icebreaker Oden north of Greenland] ]

On November 27, 2006, Norway also made an official submission into the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (article 76, paragraph 8). There are provided arguments to extend the Norwegian convert|200|nmi|abbr=on zone in three areas of the northeastern Atlantic and the Arctic: the Loop Hole in the Barents Sea, the Western Nansen Basin in the Arctic Ocean, and the Banana Hole in the Norwegian Sea. The submission also states that an additional submission for continental shelf limits in other areas may be posted later. [ [http://www.un.org/Depts/los/clcs_new/submissions_files/submission_nor.htm Outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines: Submissions to the Commission: Submission by Norway] CLCS. United Nations]

Russia is claiming a larger slice extending as far as the north pole. Moscow believes the Arctic seabed and Siberia are linked by one continental shelf.

On December 20, 2001, Russia made an official submission into the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (article 76, paragraph 8). In the document it is proposed to establish new outer limits of the continental shelf of Russia beyond the previous 200 nautical mile zone, but within the Russian Arctic sector. [http://www.un.org/depts/los/clcs_new/submissions_files/submission_rus.htm Outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines: Submissions to the Commission: Submission by the Russian Federation] CLCS. United Nations] The territory claimed by Russia in the submission is a large portion of the Arctic, including the North Pole. [ [http://www.un.org/depts/los/clcs_new/submissions_files/rus01/RUS_CLCS_01_2001_LOS_2.jpgArea of the continental shelf of the Russian Federation in the Arctic Ocean beyond 200-nautical-mile zone] - borders of the convert|200|nmi|abbr=on zone are marked in red, territory claimed by Russia is shaded] One of the arguments was a statement that Lomonosov Ridge, an underwater mountain ridge underneath the Pole, and Mendeleev Ridge are extensions of the Eurasian continent. In 2002 the UN Commission neither rejected nor accepted the Russian proposal, recommending additional research.

On August 2, 2007, a Russian expedition called Arktika 2007, composed of six explorers led by Artur Chilingarov, employing MIR submersibles, for the first time in history descended to the seabed below the North Pole. Here they planted the flag of Russia and took water and soil samples for analysis, continuing a mission to provide additional evidence related to the Russian claim of the mineral riches of the Arctic. [ [http://www.oxfordenergy.org/pdfs/comment_0807-3.pdf The Battle for the Next Energy Frontier: The Russian Polar Expedition and the Future of Arctic Hydrocarbons] , by Shamil Midkhatovich Yenikeyeff and Timothy Fenton Krysiek, Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, August 2007] This was part of the ongoing 2007 Russian North Pole expedition within the program of the 2007–2008 International Polar Year.

The expedition aims to establish that a section of seabed passing through the pole, known as the Lomonosov Ridge, is in fact an extension of Russia's landmass. The expedition came as several countries are trying to extend their rights over sections of the Arctic Ocean floor. Both Norway and Denmark are carrying out surveys to this end. Vladimir Putin made a speech on a nuclear icebreaker earlier this year,when urging greater efforts to secure Russia's "strategic, economic, scientific and defence interests" in the Arctic.

In response to Arktika 2007, Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister said the following:

In response to MacKay's comments, Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, stated:cquote|I read reports of the statements made by my Canadian colleague, Peter MacKay. I know him quite well – it’s very unlike him. I was sincerely astonished by "flag planting." No one engages in flag planting. When pioneers reach a point hitherto unexplored by anybody, it is customary to leave flags there. Such was the case on the Moon, by the way.

As to the legal aspect of the matter, we from the outset said that this expedition was part of the big work being carried out under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, within the international authority where Russia’s claim to submerged ridges which we believe to be an extension of our shelf is being considered. We know that this has to be proved. The ground samples that were taken will serve the work to prepare that evidence. [ [http://www.mid.ru/brp_4.nsf/e78a48070f128a7b43256999005bcbb3/d70a7abf573e5873c325733200428884?OpenDocument Transcript of Remarks and Replies to Media Questions by Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov at Joint Press Conference with Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary A... ] ]

On September 25, 2007, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said, "President Putin assured me that he meant no offense, ... nor any intention to violate any international understanding or any Canadian sovereignty in any way." [ [http://www.cfr.org/publication/14315/conversation_with_stephen_harper_rush_transcript_federal_news_services.html A Conversation with Stephen Harper [Rush Transcript; Federal News Service - Council on Foreign Relations ] ]

Prime Minister Harper has also promised to defend Canada's claimed sovereignty by building and operating up to eight Arctic patrol ships, a new army training centre in Resolute Bay, and the refurbishing of an existing deepwater port at a former mining site in Nanisivik. [ [http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2007/08/10/port-north.html Harper announces northern deep-sea port, training site ] ]

In August 2007, an American Coast Guard icebreaker, the USCGC "Healy", headed to the Arctic Ocean to map the sea floor off Alaska. Larry Mayer, director of the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping at the University of New Hampshire, stated the trip had been planned for months, having nothing to do with the Russians planting their flag. The purpose of the mapping work aboard the "Healy" is to determine the extent of the continental shelf north of Alaska. [ [http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070811/ap_on_sc/arctic_claims news.yahoo.com] ]

In mid-September 2007, Russia's Natural Resources Ministry issued a statement:cquote|Preliminary results of an analysis of the earth crust model examined by the Arktika 2007 expedition, obtained on September 20, have confirmed that the crust structure of the Lomonosov Ridge corresponds to the world analogues of the continental crust, and it is therefore part of the Russian Federation's adjacent continental shelf.


It was stated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on March 25, 2007, that riches are awaiting the shipping industry due to Arctic climate change. This economic sector could be transformed similar to the way the Middle East was by the Suez Canal in the 19th century. There will be a race among nations for oil, fish, diamonds and shipping routes, accelerated by the impact of global warming. [ [http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/science/series/thebigmelt The Big Melt] , "The New York Times", October 2005] The potential value of the North Pole and the surrounding area resides not so much in shipping itself but in the possibility that lucrative petroleum and natural gas reserves exist below the sea floor. Such reserves are known to exist under the Beaufort Sea. On September 14, 2007 the European Space Agency reported ice loss had opened up the Northwest Passage "for the first time since records began in 1978", and the extreme loss in 2007 rendered the passage "fully navigable".cite web | url=http://www.esa.int/esaCP/SEMYTC13J6F_index_0.html | title=Satellites witness lowest Arctic ice coverage in history | accessdate=2007-09-14] Cite web|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/6995999.stm|title=Warming 'opens Northwest Passage'|accessdate=2007-09-14] Further exploration for petroleum reserves elsewhere in the Arctic may now become more feasible, and the passage may become a regular channel of international shipping and commerce if Canada is not able to enforce its claim to it.Fact|date=September 2007

Foreign Ministers and other officials representing Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia, and the United States met in Ilulissat, Greenland in May 2008, at the Arctic Ocean Conference and announced the Ilulissat Declaration. [cite news |first= |last= |title=Conference in Ilulissat, Greenland: Landmark political declaration on the future of the Arctic |url=http://www.um.dk/en/servicemenu/News/ConferenceInIlulissatGreenlandLandmarkPoliticalDeclarationOnTheFutureOfTheArctic.htm |publisher=Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark |date=2008-05-28 |accessdate=2008-06-06] [cite web |url=http://www.um.dk/NR/rdonlyres/BE00B850-D278-4489-A6BE-6AE230415546/0/ArcticOceanConference.pdf |title=The Ilulissat Declaration |date=2008-05-28 |publisher=um.dk |accessdate=2008-06-06]

Hans Island

Hans Island is situated in the Nares Strait, a waterway that runs between Ellesmere Island (the most northerly part of Nunavut, Canada) and Greenland.

In 1973, Canada and Denmark negotiated the geographic coordinates of the continental shelf, and settled on a delimitation treaty which was ratified by the United Nations on December 17, 1973, and in force since March 13, 1974. The treaty list 127 points (latitude and longitude) from Davis Strait to the end of Robeson Channel, where Nares Strait runs into Lincoln Sea, to draw geodesic lines between, to form the border. The treaty does not, however, draw a line from point 122 (80° 49' 2 - 66° 29' 0) to point 123 (80° 49' 8 - 66° 26' 3), a distance of convert|875|m|mi|abbr=on|2. Hans Island is situated in the centre of this area.

Danish flags had been planted on Hans Island in 1984, 1988, 1995 and 2003. These were formally protested by the Canadian government, and followed with former Canadian defence minister Bill Graham making an unannounced stop on Hans Island during a trip to the Arctic in July 2005. This launched yet another diplomatic quarrel between the governments, and a truce call that September.

Canada had claimed Hans Island was clearly in their territory, as topographic maps originally used in 1967 to determine the island's co-ordinates clearly showed the entire island on Canada's side of the delimitation line. However, federal officials reviewed the latest satellite imagery in July 2007, and conceded the line went roughly through the middle of the island. This still presently leaves ownership of the island disputed, with claims over fishing grounds and future access to the Northwest Passage possibly at stake as well. [cite news
title = Satellite imagery moves Hans Island boundary: report
publisher = Canadian Press
date = July 26, 2007
url = http://www.cbc.ca/technology/story/2007/07/26/hans-technology.html
accessdate = 2007-08-27

Beaufort Sea

There is an ongoing dispute involving a wedge-shaped slice on the International Boundary in the Beaufort Sea, between Canada's Yukon territory and the American state of Alaska. [https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/us.html#Issues Transnational Issues CIA World Fact Book] ]

The Canadian position is that the maritime boundary should follow the land boundary. The American position is that the maritime boundary should extend along a path equidistant from the coasts of the two nations. The disputed area may hold significant hydrocarbon reserves. The US has already leased eight plots of terrain below the water to search for and possibly exploit oil reserves that may exist there. Canada has protested diplomatically in response. [http://www.institutenorth.org/servlet/download?id=35 Sea Changes] ]

No settlement has been reached to date, because the US has signed but has not ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. If the treaty is ratified, the issue would likely be settled at a tribunal.

Northwest Passage

The legal status of a section of the Northwest Passage is disputed: Canada considers it to be part of its internal waters, fully under Canadian jurisdiction, arguing that they are archipelagic waters under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. [http://www.admiraltylawguide.com/conven/unclospart4.html UNCLOS part IV, ARCHIPELAGIC STATES] ] The United States and most maritime nations, [ [http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/story.html?id=6d4815ac-4fdb-4cf3-a8a6-4225a8bd08df&k=73925 Northwest Passage gets political name change - Ottawa Citizen ] ] consider them to be an international strait, [ [http://www.isuma.net/v02n04/huebert/huebert_e.shtml Climate Change and Canadian Sovereignty in the Northwest Passage] ] which means that foreign vessels have right of "transit passage". [ [http://www.carc.org/whatsnew/writings/amitchell.html The Northwest Passage Thawed] ] In such a regime, Canada would have the right to enact fishing and environmental regulation, and fiscal and smuggling laws, as well as laws intended for the safety of shipping, but not the right to close the passage. [http://www.admiraltylawguide.com/conven/unclospart3.html UNCLOS part III, STRAITS USED FOR INTERNATIONAL NAVIGATION] ] [ [http://www.parl.gc.ca/information/library/PRBpubs/prb0561-e.htm#Challenges The Northwest Passage and Climate Change from the Library of Parliament - Canadian Arctic Sovereignty] ]

ee also

*Outer Continental Shelf


Further reading

*cite news|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/staging_site/in_depth/the_green_room/7543837.stm|title=Arctic Map shows dispute hotspots|date=2008-08-05|publisher=BBC|accessdate=2008-08-06
*cite web|url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/06_08_08_arcticboundaries.pdf|title=Maritime jurisdiction and boundaries in the Arctic region|date=2008-07-24|publisher=International Boundaries Research Unit, Durham University|accessdate=2008-08-06

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