International

Canada lays claim to North Pole and resource-rich Arctic

Move adds to strains with Russia as Putin asks the military to increase its presence in the Arctic region

In this March 31, 2007 photo, Ranger Joe Amarualik, from Iqaluit, Nunavut, drives his snowmobile on the ice during a Canadian Ranger sovereignty patrol near Eureka, on Ellesmere Island, Nunavut.
Jeff Mcintosh/AP

Canada intends to lay claim to the North Pole as part of a bid to assert control over a large part of the resource-rich Arctic, Foreign Minister John Baird announced Monday, a move that has raised tensions with Russia, which also claims the territory.

Baird said Canada had filed a preliminary submission to a special United Nations commission collecting competing claims and would be submitting more data later.

“Obtaining international recognition for the outer limits of our continental shelf … will be vital to the future development of Canada’s offshore resources,” said Baird.

“Canada is going to fight to assert its sovereignty in the north but I think we will be good neighbors in doing so.”

Baird said Canada needed more time to file a final submission to the U.N. commission because it had not yet fully mapped the area around the ridge.

The claim has raised tensions with Russia — which looks set to lay claim to the North Pole because it is on a continental shelf it controls.

After Baird’s announcement, President Vladimir Putin ordered Russia’s military to step up its presence in the Arctic.

Canada, Russia, Denmark, Norway and the United States each want to control as much as they can of a region the U.S. Geological Survey says contains 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and 15 percent of the oil.

Putin told an expanded defense ministry meeting that Russia’s national interests and security rested upon bolstering its presence in the Arctic after a brief post-Soviet retreat.

“I would like you to devote special attention to deploying infrastructure and military units in the Arctic,” the Kremlin chief said in televised remarks.

Russia has an overlapping claim to both the North Pole as well as large parts of the Arctic. Indeed, a government-sponsored diving team in 2007 planted a Russian flag under the North Pole.

Putin said Tuesday that “next year, we have to complete the formation of new large units and military divisions” in the Arctic that remain on constant combat alert.

Russia, Canada and Denmark each say an underwater mountain range known as the Lomonosov Ridge, which stretches 1,120 miles across the pole under the Arctic Sea, is part of their own landmass.

Wire services

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