Thursday, August 28, 2008

Canada Asserts Arctic Control, Sovereignty Over Potential Resources

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is taking a trip to northern Canada in order to reinforce Canada's claims to the Article Circle. Canada is undertaking a geo-mapping effort to determine the amount of valuable minerals that may be found in the Arctic and has also been building a new fleet of ships in order to patrol its territorial claims in the Arctic in the future. 

Canada has also indicated that it will be expanding its territorial waters in the Arctic from 100 to 200 miles. This would require commercial ships to pass through Canadian waters. Harper claims that the 200 miles would be permissible under Canada's Exclusive Economic Zone under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Harper also claims that Canadian environmental protection will be extended to its increased Arctic territory.

Canadian concern about its Arctic territory comes after Russia recently planted its flag in the North Pole seabed. The U.S., Norway, and Denmark also have claims on the Arctic. The North Pole and Arctic region are believed to have some of the last undiscovered mineral and petroleum deposits on earth.

The Arctic region could also be very valuable as a strategic shipping lane. Due to record levels of melting ice, a Northwest Passage shipping route has opened this summer for the second year in a row. This route would be a faster shipping route than the Panama Canal for some cargo, and Canada has a significant financial interest in controlling and regulating this potential shipping waterway.

1. How far does each country's territory extend under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea? How does continental shelf affect claims on the Arctic Circle?
2. As a significant oil producer, how does Canada's desire for sovereignty over potential natural resources compare with its stated environmental concerns?

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