Seven na­tions also vy­ing for South Pole rights un­der Law of Sea treaty

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By David R. Sands

Not to be left out in the cold, the South Pole is sud­denly fac­ing the same kind of ter­ri­to­rial jock­ey­ing long familiar in the North.

The gov­ern­ment of Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Gor­don Brown an­nounced last month it is pre­par­ing a claim un­der the Law of the Sea Treaty to ex­tend its seabed rights from ter­ri­to­ries in the re­gion first claimed by Lon­don in 1908.

The claim was im­me­di­ately chal­lenged by Chile and Ar­gentina, which vowed to pro­tect their own com­pet­ing claims to the con­ti­nent. Both said they were pre­par­ing new sub­mis­sions to a Law of the Sea tri­bunal that rules on such claims.

Chile dis­patched its de­fense min­is­ter to a South Pole base ear­lier this month, while For­eign Min­is­ter Ale­jan­dro Fox­ley told re­porters in San­ti­ago ear­lier this month, “No one can af­fect the rights Chile has on Antarc­tic ter­ri­tory.”

The Bri­tish claim is seen as pro­tect­ing its rights un­der the Law of the Sea agree­ment even though a 1959 in­ter­na­tional treaty sus­pended all new ter­ri­to­rial claims in the Antarc­tic and de­clared the South Pole po­lit­i­cally neu­tral.

Seven coun­tries have his­toric claims to at least a por­tion of the South Pole — Bri­tain, Chile, Ar­gentina, Nor­way, France, Aus­tralia and New Zealand. At one point, Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Ger­many even lodged a claim for what it called “New Swabia,” in Antarc­tic land now claimed by Nor­way.

The new Bri­tish claim would cover an ad­di­tional 368,000 square miles of the south­ern seabed.

The 1959 treaty, signed by the U.S., the Soviet Union and 10 other states, es­tab­lished Antarc­tica as an in­ter­na­tional sci­en­tific pre­serve, for­bid­ding any mil­i­tary ac­tiv­ity there.

But the ban on eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity, in­clud­ing tap­ping oil and nat­u­ral-gas de­posits thought to be there, ex­pires in 2048.

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