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