There is a lot more going on in the arctic than a visit by President Obama over the course of the last week. No reason to comment on some of the photo ops, but let’s look at the one item of substance he brought forward in to the discussion;
President Obama on Tuesday proposed speeding the acquisition and building of new Coast Guard icebreakers that can operate year round in the nation’s polar regions, part of an effort to close the gap between the United States and other nations, especially Russia, in a global competition to gain a foothold in the rapidly changing Arctic.
The Coast Guard’s two existing heavy polar icebreakers—Polar Star and Polar Sea—
have exceeded their originally intended 30-year service lives. Polar Star was placed in caretaker
status on July 1, 2006. Congress in FY2009 and FY2010 provided funding to repair it and return
it to service for an additional 7 to 10 years of service; the repair work was completed and the ship
was reactivated on December 14, 2012. On June 25, 2010, the Coast Guard announced that Polar
Sea had suffered an unexpected engine casualty; the ship was unavailable for operation after that.
The Coast Guard placed Polar Sea in commissioned, inactive status on October 14, 2011.
The Coast Guard’s third polar icebreaker—Healy—entered service in 2000. Compared to Polar
Star and Polar Sea, Healy has less icebreaking capability (it is considered a medium polar
icebreaker), but more capability for supporting scientific research. The ship is used primarily for
supporting scientific research in the Arctic.
With the reactivation of Polar Star in 2012, the operational U.S. polar icebreaking fleet consists
of one heavy polar icebreaker (Polar Star) and one medium polar icebreaker (Healy).
I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say this is a disgrace for the world’s premier maritime power with significant economic and national security interests in the polar regions.
The region, home to some of the world’s largest undiscovered hydrocarbon reserves, is becoming a new frontier for a geopolitical struggle between Russia and the West.
On 24 August, Russia kicked off a series of large-scale military exercises in the Arctic. A week earlier, Moscow informed the United Nations that it had laid claim to a staggering 1.2 million square kilometres of the Arctic shelf.
Russia also plans to reopen military bases it abandoned after the Soviet Union collapsed. Although the Kremlin insists its military moves are purely defensive, they come at a time of heightened tensions with the West over Ukraine that saw Russia increase its air patrols probing Nato’s borders, including in the Arctic.
… if Russia wishes to continue to be a leading oil and gas producer in the future, it must explore new oil and gas finds.
Russia’s traditional Siberian fields are aging and its liquefied natural gas plans are taking a hit, with more and more supplies appearing from competitors. And now that China’s energy appetite has stalled, the prospects of the oil price picking up soon are negligible.
If it is to survive, Russia needs other resources. These are found in the Arctic. For example, in September 2014, Exxon Mobil and Rosneft announced a major oil find in the Kara Sea, but cooperation had to be suspended due to the souring political climate.
In other words, Putin’s sabre-rattling over the Arctic is not just about diverting attention away from a troubled economy at home; it is equally about securing the country’s – and the government’s – long-term future.
That report from yesterday tops off the Russian moves for years.
Other nations are stretching their reach as well. Via WSJ:
Five Chinese navy ships are currently operating in the Bering Sea, off the coast of Alaska, the first time the U.S. military has seen such activity in the area, Pentagon officials said Wednesday.
The officials said they have been aware in recent days that three Chinese combat ships, a replenishment vessel and an amphibious ship were in the vicinity after observing them moving toward the Aleutian Islands, which are split between U.S. and Russian control.
They said the Chinese ships were still in the area, but declined to specify when the vessels were first spotted or how far they were from the coast of Alaska.
The Pentagon official said there were a “variety of opinions” on how to interpret the Chinese ships’ deployment.
“It’s difficult to tell exactly, but it indicates some interest in the Arctic region,” the official said.
Well Shipmate, that is a pretty safe statement.
We, as in the West, are at a distinct advantage here; NATO nations have the balance of the interest in the arctic; Norway, Denmark (Greenland), Iceland, Canada and the United States. We also face off against our usual sparring partner, Russia. Other nations who are poking around, like China, we should just monitor and report – but don’t get distracted.
Two challenges here are: 1) Keep NATO united in how we work together in the arctic (Canada and Denmark, call your offices). 2) Do not give Russia an inch on additional claims. #2 requires #1, so make that the first step.
Knud Rasmussen class Inspection Ship Displacement: 1,720 tonnes Dimensions: length 61m, beam 14.6m, draught 4.95m Complement: 18 crew (but can accommodate up to 43 ) Propulsion: 2 x 2,720 kW (3650 hp) at 800 rpm, B&W Alpha 8L27/28 diesel engines, 1 propeller Range: 3,000 nautical miles (3,452 mi / 5,555 km) Performance: top speed 17 – 18 knots (31.5 – 33.2 km/h)
* Standard fit (which is lighter than that of the Agdlek class). As noted, containerized armament can include a 76 mm gun (M/85 LvSa), ESSM, and EuroTorp MU90 (M/04 antiubaadstorpedo).
Did you catch that? Using the STANFLEX concept, it is scalable quickly to a limited but effective ASUW, AAW, and ASW capable ship.
We could always dream … but for now, let’s watch for follow-through on President Obama’s call;
“The growth of human activity in the Arctic region will require highly engaged stewardship to maintain the open seas necessary for global commerce and scientific research, allow for search-and-rescue activities, and provide for regional peace and stability,” the statement said.
Good Sunday morning of Women in Writing Week! This article originally appeared at CIMSEC. It is cross-posted here with the author’s permission.
On August 4th, the Russian Federation’s Foreign Ministry reported that it had resubmitted its claim to a vast swath (more than 1.2 million square kilometers, including the North Pole) of the rapidly changing and potentially lucrative Arctic to the United Nations. In 2002, Russia put forth a similar claim, but it was rejected based on lack of sufficient support. This latest petition, however, is supported by “ample scientific data collected in years of arctic research,” according to Moscow. Russia’s latest submission for the United Nation’s Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf’s (CLCS) consideration coincides with increased Russian activity in the High North, both of a military and economic nature. Recent years have seen Russia re-open a Soviet-era military base in the remote Novosibirsk Islands (2013), with intentions to restore a collocated airfield as well as emergency services and scientific facilities. According to a 2015 statement by Russian Deputy PM Dmitry Rogozin, the curiously named Academic Lomonsov, a floating nuclear power plant built to provide sustained operating power to Arctic drilling platforms and refineries, will be operational by 2016. Though surely the most prolific in terms of drilling and military activity, Russia is far from the only Arctic actor staking their claim beyond traditional EEZs in the High North. Given the increased activity, overlapping claims, and dynamic nature of Arctic environment as a whole, Russia’s latest claim has tremendous implications, whether or not the United Nations CLCS provides a recommendation in favor of Moscow’s assertions.
Russia’s August 2015 claim encompasses an area of more than 463,000 square miles of Arctic sea shelf extending more than 350 nautical miles from the shore. If recognized, the claim would afford Russia control over and exclusive rights to the economic resources of part of the Arctic Ocean’s so-called “Donut Hole.” As the New
York Times’ Andrew Kramer explains, “the Donut Hole is a Texas sized area of international waters encircled by the existing economic-zone boundaries of shoreline countries.” As such, the donut hole is presently considered part of the global commons. Moscow’s claim is also inclusive of the North Pole and the potentially lucrative Northern Sea Route (or Northeast Passage), which provides an increasingly viable shipping artery between Europe and East Asia. With an estimated thirteen percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and thirty percent of its undiscovered natural gas, the Arctic’s value to Russia goes well beyond strategic advantage and shipping lanes. Recognition by the CLCS of Russia’s claim (or any claim, for that matter) would shift the tone of activity in the Arctic from generally cooperative to increasingly competitive, as well as impinge on the larger idea of a free and indisputable global common.
The CLCS will present its findings in the form of recommendations, which are not legally binding to the country seeking the appeal. Though Russia has stated it expects a result by the fall, the commission is not scheduled to convene until Feburary or March of 2016 and, as such, there will be a significant waiting period before any recommendation will be made.
Russia is far from the only Arctic actor making claims beyond the 200 nautical mile EEZ. Denmark, for instance, jointly submitted a claim with the government of Greenland expressing ownership over nearly 900,000 square kilometers of the Arctic (including the North Pole) based on the connection between Greenland’s continental shelf and the Lomonosov Ridge, which spans nearly the entire diameter of the donut hole. This claim clearly overlaps Russia’s latest submission, which is also based on the claim that the ridge represents an extension of Russia’s continental shelf. Though there is no dispute on the ownership of the ridge, both Russia and Denmark claim the North Pole. Both nations have recently expressed a desire to work cooperatively on a resolution, though a Russian Foreign ministry statement did estimate a solution could take up to 10-15 years. Also of note: this has note always been Russia’s tune on the matter (See here and here).
Similarly, Canada is expected to make a bid to extend its Arctic territory. Notably, Canada claims sovereignty over the Northwest Passage, a shipping route connecting the Davis Strait and Baffin Bay based on historical precedent and its orientation to baselines drawn around the Arctic Archipelago. The U.S. maintains that the Northwest Passage should be an international strait. Though they have yet to submit a formal claim to the UN’s CLCS, one has reportedly been in preparation since 2013. According to reports, Canada delayed a last-minute claim at the behest of PM Stephen Harper, who insisted the claim include the North Pole. If this holds true, Canada’s claim will likely overlap both Russia and Denmark’s submissions to the CLCS. If the CLCS were to recognize the legitimacy of two or more states’ overlapping claims, the actors have the option to bilaterally or multilaterally resolve the issue to their satisfaction; developing such a resolution is beyond the scope of the commission.
Likely, Russia’s submission to the United Nations is part of a larger campaign by Moscow to reassert and re-establish its influence in the international order by virtue of its status Arctic influence. Regardless of approval or rejection by the UN, Russia’s expansive claim highlights Moscow’s very serious intention to control and exploit the Arctic. As the Christian Science Monitor’s Denise Ajiri explains, “a win would mean access to sought after resources, but the petition itself underscores Russia’s broader interest in solidifying its footing on the world stage.” With much of Western Europe reliant on Russian oil and natural gas, the Arctic and its resources represent an opportunity for the Kremlin to boost their position in the international order and develop a source of sustained and significant income. Russia may be acting within the letter of the law on the issue of their claim at this time, but it’s hard to separate that compliance from the Federation’s significant investment in the militarization of the Arctic, frequent patrols along the coastline of Arctic neighbors, and expenditure on the economic exploitation of the High North. For now, the donut hole remains part of the global commons and therefore free from direct exploitation or claim of sovereignty. The burden of proof on any one state to claim an extension of their continental shelf is truly enormous, but as experts and lawyers at the CLCS pore over these claims, receding Arctic ice combined with economic and strategic interests of the claimants will likely increase the claimants’ sense of urgency.
The famous polar explorer Richard Byrd once said, “As long as any part of the world remains obscure, the curiosity of man must draw him there, as the lodestone draws the mariner’s needle, until he comprehends its secret.”1
The Coast Guard has a long history of operating in the Arctic spanning from the purchase of Alaska to present day. In 1867 the Revenue Cutter LINCOLN was deployed to Alaskan waters to gain understanding of the newly acquired territory initiating a Coast Guard tradition of Arctic exploration.
Coast Guard icebreakers have supported scientific research in both the Arctic and Antarctic for decades and Coast Guard Cutters HEALY and POLAR STAR proudly continue this legacy. Recently Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak, under the 17th Coast Guard District, came into the fold and began providing a platform of opportunity for various members of the scientific community in the form of the HC-130H Hercules. With the increase in focus on the Arctic, the need to understand this foreboding region and to further the efforts to do so have never been greater. It is in the best interest of the country, in line with national, defense and Coast Guard strategic objectives, and necessary to ensure long term success of the Coast Guard, to support scientific research in the Arctic.
The Beginning of Coast Guard Arctic Domain Awareness Flights
Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak began conducting Arctic Domain Awareness (ADA) missions in 2007. The original intent was to increase U.S. and Coast Guard presence in the Arctic via the HC-130H Hercules while simultaneously exposing aircrews to the challenges and intricacies of operating in this high-latitude environment. The earliest missions were relatively simple, if any operation in the Arctic can be labeled as such, flying the Alaska coastline, noting strategic airfields and geographic points along the way. There were, however, missions of higher visibility such as the October 2007 flight to the North Pole and gradually they evolved to encompass numerous objectives including scientific support.
In 2008, University of Washington scientists, many of whom had worked extensively from Coast Guard icebreakers in the past, reached out to the Coast Guard 17th District and Air Station Kodiak to investigate the feasibility of deploying a series of data collecting buoys from the ADA flights for the interagency-sponsored International Arctic Buoy Program (IABBP). With keen foresight the 17th District supported this request and in 2009 the first delivery of an Airborne eXpendable Ice Beacon (AXIB) by a Coast Guard HC-130H was accomplished.
The deployment of this automated floating weather station, which transmits its data through the Iridium satellite communications system for years at a time, initiated a burgeoning partnership and marked the beginning of a new Arctic exploration opportunity for the scientific community.
The Growing Need for Arctic Accessibility for the Scientific Community
The current National Strategy for the Arctic Region states that, “Vast areas of the Arctic Ocean are unexplored, and we lack much of the basic knowledge necessary to understand and address Arctic issues. The changes in the Arctic cannot be understood in isolation and must be viewed in a global context.”2
Furthermore the Coast Guard’s Arctic Strategy, released in May of 2013 describes the need to “assist government-sponsored scientific exploration to develop a greater understanding of the changing Arctic environment”3
These statements highlight the fact that there is a significant amount about the Arctic that is unknown, and science is working to keep up with this changing environment.
“Every year the Arctic sea ice cover expands during the fall, winter and spring to a maximum extent essentially covering the whole Arctic Ocean. Over the summer, it retracts to a minimum in September. The most remarkable aspect of Arctic environmental change is that the minimum (September) extent has declined faster than climate models predict over the last two decades, reaching a new record minimum in 2012,”4 said Dr. James Morison, principal investigator of the Seasonal Ice Zone Reconnaissance Survey (SIZRS) project.
The explanation for this observed extra-rapid decline is a critical scientific question. The absence or presence of ice in any particular place in the Arctic is controlled by two different factors, thermodynamics and the kinetic effects of wind and sea currents. Measuring these two factors has become increasingly essential for answering that question. The balance of these two factors form the base of much of the scientific exploration of the Arctic, but the way in which they do or do not work together has a great effect on ice extent. If a major storm event forces ice out of the Arctic Basin, the greater amount of exposed, open water present allows more solar radiation to be absorbed into the sea rather than being reflected off a frozen surface. This added heat melts more ice from below creating more open water in a vicious cycle termed ice-albedo feedback. Further, the reduction in ice thickness and coverage makes the ice more responsive to the wind and more wind energy that is converted into wave action, which can further break up the ice. It is also theorized that the increase in ocean heat can affect the growth of ice well into the next year.
The increasing sea ice retreat in the summer increases the potential for ship transport and offshore resource exploitation off the coast of Alaska, and this increases the need for better predictions of ice conditions in the seasonal ice zone. The quality of these model-based predictions is critically dependent on knowing the initial conditions at the beginning of the melt season. However, the vast bulk of measurements are made in late August and September when conditions allow traditional icebreaker operations. This limit precludes surface-based observations in the critical May-June timeframe. According to Dr. Morison,
“Only ocean sections with aircraft expendable probes and buoys beginning in May or June repeated throughout the melt season can give the information we need to understand and ultimately predict the evolution of the seasonal ice zone.”5
Coast Guard Hercs Answer the Call
Building on early successes, ties with the University of Washington and the Coast Guard through Air Station Kodiak have grown increasingly intertwined. The number of missions has expanded dramatically from one or two in the first test years to nine missions in 2013. To date five research sensors are deployed by Kodiak based Hercules crews.
The previously mentioned AXIB and the Upper Temperature of the Ocean (UpTempO) are buoys that are designed to survive for months at a time sending vital data on the atmospheric and ocean via satellite. The Aircraft Expendable Conductivity Temperature Depth (AXCTD) and Aircraft Expendable Current Profiler (AXCP) are probes that are deployed in leads in the ice at strategic stations in the Beaufort Sea and radio back to receivers on the aircraft information on the water’s temperature, salinity and current down to a depth of 1000 meters. The DropSonde measures atmospheric condition as it drops through the air column from an altitude of 10,000 feet.
Concurrently in 2009 Air Station Kodiak began supporting an inter-government partnership with NOAA’s Global Monitoring Division working on their Carbon Cycle Greenhouse Gasses (CCGG) aircraft project. This mission is also supported by the ADA mission flights and consists both real-time measurements of methane, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and ozone as well as flask samples that are sent back to Boulder, CO where the NOAA’s CCGG group is based. The primary goal of these aircraft-based measurements is to understand how the large changes observed in the Arctic climate impact emissions of these gases in the Arctic. In particular the NOAA’s CCGG group is most interested in documenting changes in emissions of methane and carbon. As with the ice-albedo feedback, enhanced methane or carbon dioxide emissions with a warmer climate would result in more warming because both methane and carbon dioxide are strong greenhouse gases. Although some studies have suggested methane emissions are increasing with warmer climates current measurements of methane in the Arctic by NOAA have not confirmed this.
By measuring different trace gasses NOAA hopes to link measured gas concentrations to natural and anthropogenic processes. For example if a high concentration of methane is recorded the scientists can use the presence or absence of other gases such propane or ethane to determine if of the release was due to thawing permafrost or thermogic processes like natural gas leaks that will also have large amounts of ethane and propane. There are a plethora of different processes that affect the gas concentrations in the atmosphere. These need to be studied and understood before trends and baselines can be established and before a declaration of change can be made. Air Station Kodiak’s ADA flights are providing the data needed to model these.
“The ADA mission is a great opportunity to monitor what is happening in Alaska. Flights on Coast Guard HC-130H aircraft have given us access to multiple regions of Alaska, all reacting in different ways to the changing climate. Flying from March to November gives us a good snapshot of the entire seasonal cycle for [critical regions that are represented throughout] the Arctic,”6 said Dr. Colm Sweeney, head of the Global Monitoring Division’s CCGG Aircraft Program.
This diversity of measuring equipment provides a large, effectively simultaneous picture of conditions over a desired locale in the Arctic. A typical ADA mission might see the deployment of an ocean going buoy followed by AXCTD, AXCP and DropSonde deliveries along a longitudinal line at up to six different stations along with taking the standard 24 CCGG air samples. Shift this effort 10 degrees of longitude on the following day’s mission and an equivalent amount of data was collected to an entire ship-based expedition requiring weeks. And it can be done months before sea ice conditions allow the first research icebreakers on the scene. Combine this unparalleled collecting ability with the fact that Hercules flights are feasible from early March to November and suddenly the Coast Guard is in a position to facilitate unprecedented understanding of the Arctic environment.
Payoff for the Coast Guard
It is widely accepted that with the retreat of Arctic ice will come increased commercial vessel activity taking opportunity of beneficial sea routes, newly exposed resources and a growing tourism market. September 2012 marked the least extent of sea ice in recorded memory.7 Only four vessels utilized the Northern Sea Route in 2010, but 2012 saw 46 transits.8 Moreover, increased oil exploration drilling is scheduled to begin as early as summer of 2014. The Coast Guard will be required to increase capability and presence in order to respond future operational needs. This need is rapidly approaching and operators are facing unpredictable conditions. As any aviator or mariner knows it will be absolutely vital for crews to have accurate environmental and weather forecasts in order to safely complete a myriad of possible missions.
One of the most vital will be the ability to predict the ice edge. The National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan states:
“Sea ice forecasting is one of the most urgent and timely issues in the Arctic region. To ensure the best tactical and long-term ice forecasts are available for safe operations and planning, Federal agencies will work together to better quantify the rates of sea ice melt and regrowth, understand shifting patterns of distribution of ice, develop better maps of the ice edge, expand participation in the sea ice observation program, and coordinate with international partners to enable better model-based forecasting over larger areas. Improved observations will contribute to improved forecasts, which will better inform Arctic maritime safety and security activities.”9
The ability to understand a shifting ice edge will enable planners to adjust the Coast Guard’s Arctic posture for each season accordingly.
Having accurate forecasts of the weather and sea state will be important in responding to incidents such as search and rescue cases and oil spills. The ability to predict conditions in the marine domain is listed as one of the top research priorities for the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) Joint Subcommittee on Ocean Science and Technology. In its Ocean Research and Implementation Plan this is highlighted: “Enhancing environmental observation, characterization, and forecasting of ocean and waterway conditions (e.g., currents, turbidity, surface waves, sea-ice extent, lake levels, biogeochemical conditions) across the global ocean is necessary for safe and efficient marine operations.”10
With the increase in commercial activity already outpacing the Arctic modelers the Coast Guard is faced with operating in an area without the benefits of these accurate forecasts. Furthermore, increased awareness will not only aid operationally the Coast Guard’s Arctic efforts but will assist in the modernization of Arctic governance, a mainstay of Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert Papp’s Arctic strategy.
By providing stalwart support of this scientific effort the Coast Guard is poised to be amongst the first to benefit from the coming revelations, ultimately increasing the service’s effectiveness at carrying out its 11 statutory missions.
The U.S. is an Arctic nation and this is a role that can neither be shirked nor ignored. It is vital that the nation and its agencies embrace this status and become a leading figure as Arctic development takes a frontal position on the international stage. Supporting scientific research in the Arctic is undoubtedly essential and in line with national priorities. The president has outlined in his National Ocean Policy that greater scientific understanding with respect to Arctic environmental conditions must be obtained.11 The National Security Strategy of May 2010 aligns with this policy by directing U.S. support of scientific research in the Arctic.12 Admiral Papp’s vision has clearly placed the Coast Guard as leader in the advancement of U.S. national interests in Arctic waters. Air Station Kodiak and its intrepid Hercules crews are spearheading this effort with support from the 17th District. The relationships and partnerships within the scientific community that Air Station Kodiak has meticulously cultivated could forever change the understanding of the Arctic. Every piece of new data collected will further the nation’s, and by extension the world’s, ability to see with clarity the Arctic environment and the impact it may have on us all.
“HOOVER PRESENTS SPECIAL MEDAL TO BYRD AS CLIMAX OF THE CAPITAL’S WELCOME; CROWDS CHEER HIM, CONGRESS PAYS HONOR” THE NEW YORK TIMES, New York City, June 21, 1930 ↩
Matt, Chris, and Grant are joined by Caroline Troein from the Fletcher School’s Neptune Group. They talk about the Arctic, the European Defense burden, Typhoon Haiyan, China, the Hudson Center’s American Seapower event, as well as a smattering of other topics. Join us for Arctic Wastes and Tropical Shoals (Download).
When Russia planted a flag on the Arctic Ocean seabed in August 2007, it was in part, political theater meant to cement its claim to the region’s vast natural resources (especially mineral). Of course, such action served as a shot across the bow of the other states bordering the region, leading, among other actions, to a 2008 joint Canadadian-Danish geologic study that supports Canada’s claim to the Lomonosov Ridge as a natural extension of the North American continent and as such, a significant portion of the Arctic seabed. While the five nations with competing claims have agreed to work under UNCLOS through the aegis of the Arctic Council (founded in 1996), there has been an increase in military presence (primarily Russian) in recent months and something of an information campaign as well.
All of this is pretext to an event in the South China Sea that occurred earlier this summer – but only recently announced:
A Chinese submarine planted a national flag deep on the floor of the South China Sea during a test dive last month to reinforce China’s territorial claim, the boat’s designer said yesterday.
The State Oceanic Administration and Ministry of Science and Technology jointly announced yesterday that a Chinese scientific submarine with three civilian crew members had explored unknown terrain at a depth of more than 3,700 metres at the heart of the South China Sea. Before resurfacing, they planted a Chinese flag on the ocean floor.
The motivation of such as pretty clear:
“We were inspired by the Russians, who put a flag on the floor of the North Pole with their MIR [deep sea submarine],” said Zhao, an engineer at the China Ship Scientific Research Centre, who designed the hull of the submarine. “It might provoke some countries, but we’ll be all right. The South China Sea belongs to China. Let’s see who dares to challenge that.”
Brave words indeedfrom an engineer associated with the project (but one presumes they would not have made it into circulation without the tacit approval of the Chinese government) – but it doesn’t end there. Being as how there was nowhere near the Chinese coast to test the deep sea submersible’s operating depth of up to 7,000 meters (greater than the Russian Mir and similar Western subs, as claimed by the Chinese maker), it was tested close to the Philippines:
“The closer to Philippines, the deeper the sea. We will put down national flags all the way until we reach their border,” Zhao said. “And then we will go beyond and aim for the Mariana Trench.”
Oh yes — and one other “small” item all the way at the end of the article:
The Sea Dragon needs the support of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, according to Zhao. “The navy has escorted all our previous missions and I think they will continue to do so,” he said. “The further we go, the more we need guns to protect ourselves.”
The timing of the announcement and subsequent revelation in the open press (e.g., South China Morning Post – 27 August 2010 (registration/subscription may be required to read)) obviously follows on the heels of China’s assertion of sovereignty over the South China Sea. The rub of it is, however, that in so doing their goal of keeping the US marginalized and the other nations bordering the SCS divided becomes harder to obtain. The US has already stated that the competing clams over the resources in the sea and on the seabed of the SCS should be handled in a multi-lateral forum – one thinks something similar to the afore-mentioned Arctic Council, which would be anathema to the Chinese who, ironically enough, have obtained observer status on the Arctic Council. And that item, brings us back to the Arctic where China has asserted a right for access to the mineral wealth on par with the perimeter nations. Giving substance to the claim is a research station established in Norway and deployment of a Russian-built, nuclear-powered icebreaker on a semi-permanent basis.
So, here’s an observation — Russia has laid clam to a vast amount of the Arctic and may well end up with a majority share of said resources. Claim, however, is one thing, the ability to access and exploit another — and the current state of Russian industry and technology to exploit the mineral resources of the region is questionable. The US and Canada have the technological capability, but one wonders about the commitment of the US and the capacity of Canada – which leads us to look at a possible Russo-Chinese joint venture — hard currency for Russia from sales abroad of liquid and mineral resources and guaranteed access to same by a resource hungry China. All without any expectation of China stepping back from its increasingly aggressive posture in the SCS.
As the Arctic heats up, diplomatic meetings are getting rather frosty. You might have missed this, but Canada got a public rebuke from the U.S. yesterday over Arctic policy. From the Voice of America:
On Monday, Canada hosted a meeting of foreign ministers from five countries with Arctic coastlines for talks on maritime boundaries, disaster response and other issues. The U.S. and Canada were joined by Denmark, Norway and Russia.
But other countries with Arctic interests – Finland, Iceland and Sweden – as well as northern indigenous groups were not invited.
Clinton said in remarks to the meeting that significant international discussions on Arctic issues should include those who have legitimate interests in the region. She said she hopes the Arctic will always showcase the ability to work together, not create new divisions.
Canada, who had invited only those countries with Arctic coastlines, irked Iceland, Sweden and Finland–who think that Arctic decisions need to be made by the 8 state Arctic Council. The Inuit were also upset. So the U.S. issued Canada a public rebuke–the first since the run-up to the Gulf War.
And then, to boot, where does one draw the line? If the Arctic Council participates, why shouldn’t China be allowed to participate? I mean, they might feel they have “legitimate interests”:
Earlier this month, a Chinese rear-admiral asserted that the Arctic belongs to all peoples. He was correct — if only with respect to the central Arctic Ocean where the water and sea-ice form part of the high seas and an area of ocean floor beyond the continental shelves of the five coastal states is part of the “common heritage of mankind.”
I don’t understand the goals here. Why are we making a big stink over this diplomatic meeting? Sometimes it’s OK to have an exclusive club…and with Arctic Claims being seen as a basis for support of China’s claims in the East and South China seas, the five “Arctic-owning” nations need to talk far more than argue. A lot of things ride on getting this right.
Observing the summer ice floes from HEALY, Aug 2008.
On January 9, 2009, the President signed the Nation’s new Arctic Region Policy, National Security Presidential Directive 66/Homeland Security Presidential Directive 25. This document, which replaces the Arctic section of PDD-26, establishes comprehensive national policies that recognize the changing environmental, economic, and geo-political conditions in the Arctic and re-affirms the United States’ broad and fundamental interests in the region. The Directive takes into account altered national policies on national defense and homeland security, the effects of global climate change and increased human activity in the region, as well as a growing awareness that the Arctic is both fragile and rich in natural resources.
NSPD 66/HSPD 25 specifically establishes that it is the policy of the U.S. to:
– Meet national security and homeland security needs relevant to the Arctic region
– Protect the Arctic environment and conserve its biological resources
– Ensure that natural resource management and economic development in the region are environmentally sustainable
– Strengthen institutions for cooperation among the eight Arctic nations
– Involve the Arctic?s indigenous communities in decisions that affect them
– Enhance scientific monitoring and research into local, regional, and global environment issues.
Secretary Chertoff met with local leaders in Barrow Alaska while visiting the Arctic Region, August 2008
The development of these policies was a collaborative effort involving myriad stakeholders and, in many ways, marks the first step in the United States taking an active role in the region. Much work remains to be done and we look forward to working closely with our partners at the federal, state, local, and tribal levels, the Arctic nations, appropriate international forums, and the private sector to develop the requirements, action plans, and best mix of resources needed to implement these policies. The following highlights just a few of the specific Coast Guard implications in the new policy. These are by no means all inclusive. As you read these understand that we can accomplish nothing on our own. Every aspect of this directive overlaps the responsibilities and interest of several parties and agencies. Continued collaboration, cooperation and communication will be the keys to success. Also, as we have been, we will Involve the Arctic’s indigenous communities in decisions that affect them.
——————————————– National and Homeland Security Interests
The Arctic region is primarily a maritime domain and the Coast Guard will continue to apply the following policies and authorities, including law enforcement:
The U.S. will exercise sovereignty within our maritime boundaries and over the continental shelf while preserving Freedom of the Seas. Implementation of this policy requires the development of greater capabilities and capacity to operate in the region to protect our borders, increase Arctic domain awareness and project our presence in the region. This will require close cooperation with our partners the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security.
The Coast Guard’s main role in this capacity is to represent the U.S. in the International Maritime Organization and other appropriate forums to develop international agreements to ensure effective governance mechanisms, including Arctic-specific regulations to ensure safe, secure, environmentally friendly maritime activities. These efforts will be closely coordinated with the Department of Transportation and Department of State and will also serve to advance multi-national cooperation in the region. We will look at how to expand our highly effective partnerships established through the North Pacific and North Atlantic Coast Guard Forums to meet the objectives of this directive.
Continental Shelf and Boundary Issues / Promoting International Scientific Cooperation
The Coast Guard will continue to support the necessary research efforts by the National Science Foundation and others through the use of Coast Guard resources for scientific support to establish the outer limit of the continental shelf to the fullest extent permitted under international law.
Maritime Transportation in the Artic region
U.S. priorities for maritime transportation in the Arctic are to facilitate safe, secure and reliable navigation; protect maritime commerce; protect the environment.
This requires the Coast Guard to work with its interagency partners, the Arctic nations, and regulatory
USCGC SPAR operating off the North Slope
bodies to establish infrastructure to support shipping activity; search and rescue response; aids to navigation; vessel traffic management; iceberg warnings and sea ice information; shipping standards; and protection of the marine environment.
Environmental Protection and Conservation of Natural Resources
The Coast Guard will work collaboratively to develop environmental response strategies, plans and capabilities working with the Departments of Energy and the Interior. We will also enforce any international or domestic fisheries laws developed for this unique region in coordination with NOAA and NMFS from the Department of Commerce.
I commend all of the participants who helped to develop this comprehensive Arctic Region Policy over the last two years. For the men and women of the Coast Guard, and the partners we work next to every day, this is just the beginning of the work to be done to ensure that we expand our superior mission execution to the increasingly significant Arctic region, consistent with the President’s intent.