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Taken Question
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
January 13, 2009
Question Taken at January 13, 2009 Daily Press Briefing

U.S. Arctic Policy (Taken Question)

Question: What details can we provide regarding the U.S. Directive that was issued yesterday on the Arctic, particularly pertaining to sovereignty? Why was it issued? Why was it issued now?

Answer: Fourteen years have passed since the last review of federal Arctic policy. Our understanding of climate change in the Arctic has caused all Arctic nations to reassess their policies in the Arctic. In addition, with the increase in summer melting of Arctic sea ice, human activity is increasing. This raises new questions about the potential expansion of fisheries, pollution, energy exploration and development, and the nature of sustainable economic development in the region. In addition, since the last policy review, Arctic nations have established the Arctic Council.

The new U.S. Directive highlights the possibility of several areas where initiatives may be warranted, such as international agreements or arrangements on issues such as Arctic tourism, fisheries management, and shipping in an ice-diminished Arctic Ocean. The new directive also takes into account changes in homeland security and defense policy that have occurred since the 1994 policy was issued. The United States has fundamental homeland security interests in preventing terrorist attacks and criminal or hostile acts in or via the Arctic region.

The new directive is the culmination of an extensive interagency review process undertaken in response to rapid changes taking place in the Arctic, the principal drivers of which are climate change, increasing human presence in the region, and the growing demand for Arctic energy deposits and other natural resources. The directive focuses on seven broad areas of Arctic policy: 1) National security and homeland security, 2) International governance, 3) Extended continental shelf and boundary issues, 4) Promotion of international scientific cooperation, 5) Maritime transportation, 6) Economic issues, including energy resources, and 7) Environmental protection and conservation of natural resources.

States safeguard their national security interests in numerous ways, some on their own, and some in cooperation with others. The United States wants to cooperate with other governments in the Arctic. The best way to address both the challenges and opportunities of the Arctic is through cooperation. Any U.S. action would respect international law.

2009/045

Released on January 13, 2009

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