ONE of the most inhospitable places on the planet is in danger of becoming a flashpoint as global powers fight for control. THE polar regions are the closest thing left to virgin territory in the modern world. But with sea ice melting at a rapid rate due to global warming, the Arctic Sea — and its abundance of valuable minerals and natural resources — is becoming more accessible each year.
The Arctic, including the fabled Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and the Pacific, is among the last regions on earth to remain largely unexplored. But as new passages open up, the changing conditions in the Arctic are spurring talk of a gold rush for the region’s resources, control of the prized shipping routes, and business opportunities in tourism and fishing.
Russia has steadily been increasing its military presence in recent years while China has found roundabout ways to exert influence in the region. It’s a situation that has led conservationists, industry experts and government officials to raise concerns of increasing geopolitical tension developing in the region. The head of the US Coast Guard even compared the situation to the ongoing dispute over territorial claims of islands in the South China Sea.
This month a Russian tanker travelled through a northern route in the Arctic without an icebreaker escort for the very first time. As new oceans and shipping routes open, it also opens the door for the potential of more competing territorial claims in the region, experts fear.
AN ICY TREASURE TROVE
The Arctic stretches from the North Pole to roughly the 66th parallel north, an area of about 20 million square kilometres of freezing seas and tree-less lands. Unlike Antarctica, most of the Arctic is under national jurisdiction with countries like Canada, Norway, Denmark, the US and Russia which border the Arctic all laying claim to certain parts.
For the rest of this article: http://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/conservation/arctic-ambitions-could-the-opening-up-of-the-arctic-become-the-next-south-china-sea/news-story/c6aa32b7a02bc594ce2eb49301784c46