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Cold War: Territorial Claims in Antarctica
[Commentary] Imperialist penguins march on
Waldemar Cono Fontes Reyes (antawa)     Print Article 
Published 2007-10-25 14:42 (KST)   
Not only are the Emperor Penguins claiming the Antarctica as theirs, but also some countries around the world.

The continent is an area under the Antarctic Treaty, signed in 1959. The aim of this treaty is to establish the legal framework for the management of Antarctica, becoming a place where territorial claims are frozen, instead dedicating the region to peace, cooperation and scientific research.

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However, the aim of the treaty could be in danger after a British declaration published in The Guardian on Oct. 17, 2007.

According to newspaper, "The United Kingdom is planning to claim sovereign rights over a vast area of the remote seabed off Antarctica. The submission to the United Nations covers more than 1 million sq km (386,000 sq miles) of seabed."

As The Guardian stated, this claim was to provoke a 쐑uickening of the race for territory around the South Pole. It seems to have succeeded, as it elicited much discussion in the news, particularly in the Latin American region.

There are seven countries claiming territory in Antarctica: Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, New Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdom.

The UK claim in the area is a very old one and includes territories also claimed by Chile and Argentina.

Argentina, which is still affected by the loss of the Falkland Islands in the 1982 war, was the first to raise the alarm. The British claim in the area includes not only the Falkland seabed but also the South Georgias and other islands and seeks to extend the offshore marker to 350 miles.

That would affect Argentina sovereignty in the Atlantic continental platform and, naturally, is getting airtime in political speeches being given at a time of electoral campaigns.

On the other side, the Chileans were also alarmed. The government opposition said that a lack of military presence in Antarctica was the reason other countries are now taking advantage.

They mentioned that the former Chilean Navy base 쏛rturo Prat was closed for more than a year -- literally abandoned -- or the case of the ice airstrip in Patriot Hills, a strategic position to penetrate deep into the South which is only open every two years.

Argentina was particularly affected by budget restrictions during the last two or three years and a crisis point was reached when the icebreaker 쏧rizar was destroyed by fire earlier this year.

Until now the Argentinan navy has had no replacement for the big ship and the 2007-2008 summer campaign will be carried out without this essential vessel.

On the other side of Antarctica, Australia and New Zealand -- which also have territorial claims -- agreed with the British pretension based in a extend report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) called 쏶trategic Insights 34 - Frozen assets: Securing Australia's Antarctic future.

In this report the ASPI analyzes the key issues regarding how Australia should improve their approach to Antarctica, including the 쐔erritorial claim, resource exploitation, illegal fishing, the direct effects of climate change, increased tourists, and the potential for bio-prospecting and iceberg harvesting industries developing.

In the report it considers the possibility of increasing a military presence in the South Pacific and Antarctic Oceans to protect Australian interests. The position is supported by New Zealand analysts and that nation's similar interests on the continent.

As an antecedent to this situation is the dispute for the Arctic seabed started by Russia after a submarine descended 13,000 feet under the North Pole in August 2007, planting a flag claiming the Arctic seabed as Russian territory.

A series of claims followed, and the U.S., Canada and the Nordic European countries began to deploy measures to ensure their rights in the area were not affected.

Coming back to the South, even if the British claim -- which is to be submitted to the United Nations -- is just a preventive measure, this is the kind of move that will prove useful to politicians and the military.

In addition the British claim, Chile and Argentina have similar claims to extend their Antarctic territory. This could provoke other claims and other nations such as Brazil, Uruguay or Peru in South America and South Africa, India, China, Japan or Korea, from the other side.

The UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon is going to visit the Chilean main station at King George Island in November this year. The visit was planned in relation to the global warming. The Chilean President Michelle Bachelet will accompany the UNSG and everybody expects that the issue of these territorial claims will be on the agenda.
The Antarctic Treaty Consultative members are 28 countries including the U.S. and Russia, which are not territory claimants.

The Executive Secretary of the Antarctic Treaty is based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Antarctic Treaty Secretary


"Britain to claim more than 1m sq km of Antarctica," by Owen Bowcott - The Guardian, Oct. 17, 2007

70 South: Antarctic News

Strategic Insights 34 - Frozen assets: Securing Australia's Antarctic future

About that Russian Arctic "Claim" (20 Aug 07):
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Waldemar Cono Fontes Reyes

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