WASHINGTON, July 24 (RIA Novosti) - The United States is only beginning to recognize its responsibilities as an Arctic nation, and must accept the responsibilities for US sovereign claims to waters off the Arctic, US Coast Guard Vice Admiral Peter Neffenger told RIA Novosti following a House Infrastructure Subcommittee hearing on US policy in the Arctic.
“It requires a huge commitment of resources to operate there,” Vice Admiral Neffenger said of the Arctic on Wednesday.
“It used to be a place you chose to go to for exploration or defense,” he said. “As activity increases you really have to understand what the nature of that activity is and what the demand is going to be for that mission set.”
While Neffenger does not believe there is a potential for a military conflict in the Arctic “any time soon,” he said the US should take issues of sovereignty in the region more seriously.
"[The Arctic] affords us the same opportunities we have in other oceans off our coasts. The waters there, with respect to our sovereignty, are no different than our sovereign concerns anywhere else in the United States. So those are US national waters and we need to apply the same sovereign national interests there,” he said.
The United States has not yet signed on to the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention (UNCLOS), which allows a nation to claim the territory 200 miles off the edge of its continental shelf. Although the past three US administrations supported the accession to the UNCLOS, it has been held up in the Senate, creating what experts believe to be a US disadvantage in the Arctic region.
Last week, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that Admiral Robert Papp, former US Coast Guard commandant, will serve as the US special representative for the Arctic. This is the first appointment of its kind and takes place ahead of the US chairmanship of the Arctic Council.