U.S. Eyes Massive Arctic Ocean Territory close to Russia

Written by Jeppe W

Dec.29 - 2023 1:24 PM CET

Photo provided by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Photo provided by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

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The United States is preparing to assert claims over an expansive area of ocean territory that extends beyond its current 200-mile exclusive economic zone, with a significant focus on the Arctic Ocean and central Bering Sea, according to news site Alaska Beacon.

This initiative, led by the U.S. State Department, has been informed by a comprehensive, two-decade mapping project involving federal agencies like NOAA and the U.S. Geological Survey.

The newly identified extended continental shelf (ECS) areas span an estimated 987,700 square kilometers, more than twice the size of California, and include intricate underwater geographies such as the Chukchi Borderland, located about 600 miles north of the Bering Strait.

A major portion of this claim, about 520,400 square kilometers, lies in the Arctic Ocean, with an additional 176,330 square kilometers in the Bering Sea. This assertion of sovereignty, under international law, would grant the U.S. control over resource development in these regions. However, the U.S. Senate has not ratified the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which governs such claims, posing a potential obstacle to this assertion.

Senator Lisa Murkowski, advocating for treaty ratification, emphasizes its importance for bolstering U.S. control in the Arctic, especially as climate change increases accessibility and interest in the region. The extended continental shelf claims, while largely avoiding areas of international contention, do overlap slightly with claims by Canada in the Arctic, necessitating future negotiations.