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Sea of Okhotsk is Russian territory - tabloid

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Russian geologists intend to prove that the Sea of Okhotsk's central enclave, as well as all its other parts excluding a small piece in the south, belong to Russia, a Russian tabloid wrote Monday.
MOSCOW, April 7 (RIA Novosti) - Russian geologists intend to prove that the Sea of Okhotsk's central enclave, as well as all its other parts excluding a small piece in the south, belong to Russia, a Russian tabloid wrote Monday.

Moskovsky Komsomolets said the question concerns 56,400 square kilometers (21,780 square miles) of deepened continental shelf under the Sea of Okhotsk, a part of the western Pacific Ocean, which is legally beyond the 200-mile Russian economic zone.

In 2001, Russia addressed the UN continental shelf commission with a similar request, which was turned down at the time. The UN demanded more data and evidence that the enclave is a continuation of the continental shelf, said Viktor Poselov, a deputy director of the ocean and geology research institute.

The Federal Agency for the Management of Mineral Resources and the institute sent a new special expedition to the Sea of Okhotsk to gather evidence for Russia's claim. Poselov said the collected data clearly indicates the sea is Russian territory with only some of the Kuril Islands being under dispute.

The Russian research is now being examined by the Natural Resources Ministry, and in three months a new request could be filed with the UN, Poselov said.

Moskovsky Komsomolets said the UN commission is not yet satisfied with Russian scientists' arguments that the Lomonosov Ridge belongs to Russia. The UN said Russian geologists plan to gather more data in 2009.

Last August, as part of a scientific expedition, two Russian mini-subs made a symbolic eight-hour dive beneath the North Pole to bolster the country's claim that the Arctic's Lomonosov Ridge lies in the country's economic zone. A titanium Russian flag was also planted on the seabed.

The expedition irritated a number of Western countries, particularly Canada, and Peter MacKay, the Canadian foreign minister, accused Moscow of making an unsubstantiated claim to the area.

Russia's oceanology research institute has undertaken two Arctic expeditions - to the Mendeleyev underwater chain in 2005 and to the Lomonosov ridge last summer - to back Russian claims to the region, believed to contain vast oil and gas reserves and other mineral riches, likely to become accessible in future decades due to man-made global warming.

Russia and Japan have contested the ownership of the Kuril Islands for over 60 years, a dispute that has kept the two countries from signing a formal peace treaty after World War II.

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