Competition in the Arctic is heating up as Denmark has laid claim to the North Pole.
Copenhagen is citing scientific data showing Greenland, which is an autonomous country within Denmark, sits atop a continental shelf connected to a ridge beneath the Arctic Circle. Danish Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard said this new information provides the country with a claim to the region and, more critically, the energy resources thought to be in the Arctic, the Associated Press reports.
Lidegaard said Denmark will take its claim to the UN for an eventual decision on the control of the area.
“This is a historical milestone for Denmark and many others as the area has an impact on the lives of lot of people. After the UN panel had taken a decision based on scientific data, comes a political process,” Lidegaard told the AP on Friday. “I expect this to take some time. An answer will come in a few decades.”
The US currently estimates that the Arctic sea bed could contain 15% of the earth’s remaining oil, along with 30% of the planet’s natural gas and 20% of its liquefied natural gas. Whichever country is able to successfully claim the Arctic would have the right to extract these resources.
Currently, five countries lay competing claims to the Arctic: the US, Canada, Russia, Norway, and Denmark. Each of these nations border the Arctic Ocean and are free to pursue their own policies within their declared Arctic boundaries.
By claiming that a ridge connects Greenland to the Arctic sea bed, Denmark could hypothetically lay complete claim to any mineral and petroleum wealth that could be discovered on the ocean floor.
Beyond natural wealth, whichever country controls the Arctic can claim control over the Northern Sea Route. Once more of the polar sea ice melts, shipping over the top of the world will become the quickest way to move goods around the world. The route, which Russia wants to control, would take only 35 days to ship from Europe to Asia compared to the 48-day journey between the continents via the Suez Canal.
In trying to lay claim to the Arctic, Denmark will likely find itself butting heads with Russia.
Moscow has also claimed that, based on scientific research, a Russian continental shelf extends further below the pole than previously contended. Russia’s natural resources minister said that Moscow would seek to expand its Arctic borders by 1.2 million square kilometers through the United Nations.
Russia is simultaneously embarking upon a rapid militarization of its Arctic coast. Moscow has opened its third military port, out of a proposed 16, along the Arctic and by 2025, Russia hopes to also have 13 airfields and ten air-defence radar stations in the region.
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