TORONTO (AP) — Canada plans to make a claim to the North Pole in an effort to assert its sovereignty in the resource-rich Arctic, the country's foreign affairs minister said Monday.
John Baird said the government has asked scientists to work on a future submission to the United Nations claiming that the outer limits of the country's continental shelf include the pole, which so far has been claimed by no one.
Canada last week applied to extend its seabed claims in the Atlantic Ocean, including some preliminary Arctic claims, but it wants more time to prepare a claim that would include the pole.
Asserting Canada's rights in the Arctic has been a popular domestic issue for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, though at least one expert on the issue described the planned claim as a long shot.
"We are determined to ensure that all Canadians benefit from the tremendous resources that are to be found in Canada's far north," Baird said.
Countries including the U.S. and Russia are increasingly looking to the Arctic as a source of natural resources and shipping lanes. The U.S. Geological Survey says the region contains 30 percent of the world's undiscovered natural gas and 15 percent of oil. If Canada's claim is accepted by the U.N. commission, it would dramatically grow its share.
Countries must submit proposals to the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf to request an extension of their nautical borders. Currently, under international law, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the U.S. —the five countries with territories near the Arctic Circle_are allotted 200 nautical miles from their northern coasts.
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