Tuesday, January 13, 2009

"National Security Presidential Directive and Homeland Security Presidential Directive--Arctic Region Policy"

First the EU stakes out its interests; now President Bush stakes out the United States'; boy, is our positition lonely--almost no-one accepts our (very shaky in my view) claim that the Northwest Passage is Canadian "internal waters".
Bush policy asserts U.S. power in Arctic
New directive rebuts Canadian claims

In his final days in power, President George W. Bush asserted U.S. military "sea power" over the oil-rich Arctic yesterday, in another forceful rebuttal of Canada's claims of sovereignty over the Northwest Passage.

The White House formally released the text of a sweeping new directive on the Arctic, two years in the making, just eight days before Barack Obama is to be sworn in.

Key elements of the policy challenge the ambitious Arctic sovereignty agenda put forth by Prime Minister Stephen Harper that includes bolstering Canada's military presence and fostering economic and social development. The Bush directive reiterates that the Northwest Passage is an international waterway -- a rebuttal of Canada's claim of sovereignty over what is emerging as a major global shipping route because of the shrinking polar ice cap -- and it highlights the boundary dispute in the resource-rich Beaufort Sea.

"I think Canada has gotten a real wake-up call with this," said University of Calgary political scientist Rob Huebert, one the country's leading experts on Arctic issues.

He said he couldn't recall the U.S. ever articulating its disagreements with Canada "in such black and white terms. There was no effort here to sugar-coat anything."

Mr. Huebert noted that the bold assertion of American interests in the Arctic came only weeks after a similar statement by European officials also posed challenges to Canada's polar strategy [emphasis added].

"Freedom of the seas is a top national priority," the White House directive states. "The Northwest Passage is a strait used for international navigation, and the Northern Sea Route includes straits used for international navigation. Preserving the rights and duties relating to navigation and overflight in the Arctic region supports our ability to exercise these rights throughout the world, including through strategic straits."

The Arctic's untapped energy potential has sparked a 21st-century scramble in the Far North that has included a Russian submarine planting a flag on the North Pole seabed and Canada's expressions of its own Arctic aspirations under Mr. Harper, which include a greater military land and sea presence.

Mr. Harper's office had no immediate comment.

Mr. Bush's memorandum directs several key agencies to define the full extent of U.S. Arctic boundaries because of its "compelling interest" in the region. The policy cites climate change, defence against possible terrorist threats and a "a growing awareness that the Arctic region is both fragile and rich in resources."..

The document also urges U.S. co-operation in a number of bilateral settings, including the Arctic Council and the International Maritime Organization to develop "new international arrangements" as human activity in the region grows.

The directive instructs the U.S. to aggressively resolve border disputes, particularly in the Arctic seabed, so it can determine where it may lay claim to resources.

The policy also notes that Canada and the U.S. "have an unresolved boundary dispute in the Beaufort Sea ... the United States recognizes that the boundary area may contain oil, natural gas, and other resources."

The directive says that best way for the U.S. to win international recognition for its boundary disputes is through the international convention on the Law of the Sea.

Mr. Bush's directive is the first U.S. Arctic policy update in 15 years.
The text of the directive is here.

Update: What on earth does "infrastructure" have to do with the status of the Northwest Passage or the Beaufort Sea boundary?
Bold response required to U.S. arctic claim: premier
'Empty rhetoric will not secure our sovereignty'
Sodden footware
Upperdate: More from Ben Muse at Arctic Economics. Note:
The directive does recommend that Congress pass the Law of the Sea Treaty.

Joining will serve the national security interests of the United States, including the maritime mobility of our Armed Forces worldwide. It will secure U.S. sovereign rights over extensive marine areas, including the valuable natural resources they contain. Accession will promote U.S. interests in the environmental health of the oceans. And it will give the United States a seat at the table when the rights that are vital to our interests are debated and interpreted.

The Secretary of State is directed to continue to seek the Senate's advice and consent to the Treaty...

There goes President Bush's unilateralism, I guess.


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