Bush spells out Arctic security policy

US president George W Bush has issued a long-awaited security directive spelling out American military, economic and diplomatic priorities in the Arctic. The first review of the country's Arctic policy in 14 years, the wide-ranging document, released on Monday, contradicts Russia's claim to a bigger portion of the region and its energy supplies.


Given the impact of climate change, increased human activity as summer sea ice melts, and the growing demand for energy deposits and other natural resources, the United States and seven other countries claiming Arctic territory are reassessing their policies. US officials say the country wants to cooperate in settling any disputes.


A State Department spokesman said the new directive highlights several areas where "initiatives may be warranted". They include "international agreements or arrangements on issues such as Arctic tourism, fisheries management and shipping in an ice-diminished Arctic Ocean". Changes in US homeland security and defence policy since 1994 also have been taken into account.


The document focuses on seven broad policy areas: national security and homeland security; international governance; extended continental shelf and boundary issues; promotion of international scientific cooperation; maritime transportation; economic, including energy, resources; and environmental protection and natural-resources conservation.


Among its points, the policy emphasises "freedom of the seas" as a "top national priority". It specifically cited the Northwest Passage over Canada and the Northern Sea Route over Russia as of key strategic importance.



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