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    Russia's Pacific Fleet will closely monitor U.S. naval drills involving nuclear-powered submarines off the Alaska coast, a fleet official said on Thursday.

    VLADIVOSTOK, March 5 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Pacific Fleet will closely monitor U.S. naval drills involving nuclear-powered submarines off the Alaska coast, a fleet official said on Thursday.

    A spokeswoman for the U.S. Atlantic Fleet's submarine force earlier announced that two Los Angeles class attack submarines had left their bases on route to Alaska to take part in the ICEX-2009 exercise aimed at testing submarine tactics under Arctic conditions.

    "Any action by foreign submarines in the vicinity of Russia's maritime borders naturally demand heightened scrutiny on our part, especially in the light of an accident involving a British submarine during a previous exercise," the official said.

    The most recent ICEX exercise was held in 2007. The attack subs Alexandria and HMS Tireless from the British Royal Navy participated in the drills. Two British submariners died and one was injured aboard Tireless, when an onboard explosion caused a fire during the exercise.

    Ice Exercise 2009 begins later this month and will last roughly two weeks, according to the U.S Navy. In addition to the two U.S. submarines, researchers from the University of Washington, personnel from the Navy's Arctic Submarine Laboratory and some Royal Navy officers will take part in the exercise.

    The Russian official said the Pacific Fleet would use all its reconnaissance capability deployed on the Kamchatka Peninsula to track the activities of the U.S. exercise.

    "Our primary goal is to monitor our territorial waters to prevent the violation of Russia's maritime border," he said.

    The polar region has lately become the subject of increased attention on the part of the Arctic Circle countries because of potential competition for its natural resources.

    Many Arctic specialists agree that global warming is causing ice to retreat around the outer edges of sea ice drifting on the Arctic Ocean which is opening up previously closed maritime routes and new possibilities for oil and gas exploration.

    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said in September that the Arctic shelf is a guarantee of Russia's energy security and that the Arctic should become the resource base for Russia this century, adding that "about 20% of Russia's GDP and 22% of Russian exports are produced" in the area.

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