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Russia to boost Arctic presence against rivals

By Agencies in Moscow, Toronto, Canada | China Daily | Updated: 2013-12-12 08:16

Three more nations make territorial claims on piece of lucrative region

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russia's military to increase its focus on the Arctic and to finish plans by the end of the year to upgrade military bases in the resource-rich region where world powers jostle for control.

Speaking to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Putin praised the military's work in the Arctic.

The United States, Denmark and Norway are also pressing for control of what they consider their fair share of massive untapped oil and natural gas reserves.

"I request that you pay special attention to the deployment of infrastructure and military units in the Arctic," Putin said, speaking at a Defense Ministry board meeting.

In his televised comments, Putin pointed to deadlines for the renewal of Russia's Tiksi airfield and completion of work at Severomorsk-1 airfield.

"By the end of the year it is planned - and I expect it will be done," Putin said.

Russia to boost Arctic presence against rivals

Russia has already completed the renovation of a once-abandoned airfield on the Novosibirsk Islands, Putin said. That field had been abandoned in 1993 but is returning to service. Earlier this year Moscow sent 10 warships and four icebreakers to the islands in a show of force.

Underscoring Moscow's sensitivity over Arctic claims, Russia arrested 30 people on board a Greenpeace ship during a September protest against Russian offshore Arctic drilling. They now face charges that carry a possible seven-year jail sentence.

Putin said earlier this week that Russia's military presence in the Arctic was needed to protect against potential threats from the US.

The US Geological Survey has said that the Arctic contains 30 percent of the world's undiscovered natural gas and 15 percent of its undiscovered oil.

The world's largest oil producer, Russia expects to see oil output decline at its mainstay western Siberian oilfields in coming years - one reason it is now looking to the Arctic reserves.

But who owns what remains a question. Russia, Canada and Denmark all say an underwater mountain range known as the Lomonosov Ridge, which stretches 1,800 km across the pole under the Arctic Sea, belongs to their own landmasses. Denmark's claim arises from its connection to Greenland, an autonomous Danish territory that extends nearly to the pole.

Earlier on Monday, Canada announced plans to lay claim to the North Pole in an effort to assert sovereignty in the resource-rich Arctic.

Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said the government has asked scientists to work on a future submission to the United Nations claiming that the outer limits of the country's continental shelf include the pole, which so far has been claimed by no one.

Canada last week applied to extend its seabed claims in the Atlantic Ocean, including some preliminary Arctic claims, but it wants more time to prepare a claim that would include the pole.

Assertion of Canada's Arctic rights has proved politically popular domestically for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, though at least one expert on the issue described the planned claim as a long shot.

"We are determined to ensure that all Canadians benefit from the tremendous resources that are to be found in Canada's far north," Baird, the foreign minister, said.

If Canada's claim is accepted by the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, it will have dramatically grown its Arctic share.


Russia to boost Arctic presence against rivals

(China Daily 12/12/2013 page11)

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