Antarctica “Unique and Fragile”
Gentoo Penguins frolic on an iceberg in the Fildes Bay in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica, 09 March 2020. EFE/EPA/FELIPE TRUEBA

Antarctica “Unique and Fragile”


Washington, May 17 (EFE) –

US President Joe Biden on Friday signed a new national security memorandum on Antarctica that reaffirms his nation’s commitment to protecting the “unique and fragile” region from “direct and indirect pressures from human activities” and announced that the US would consider expanding its icebreaker fleet to implement its objectives, just days after news broke that Russia had found vast oil and gas reserves in the protected southern continent.

“The United States will continue to lead cooperative international efforts through the Antarctic Treaty System to maintain the Antarctic Region for peaceful purposes, protect its relatively pristine environment and ecosystems, and conduct scientific research,” the memorandum said, adding that “the United States will continue to use all tools available – including expanding the Nation’s polar icebreaker fleet.”

The new memorandum, which sets US policy for the region, replaces the previous one, which was drafted in 1994 during Bill Clinton’s presidency (1993-2001).

The White House added in a statement about the new memo that it remains “vigilant against actions by countries that could threaten US national interests by bringing international discord to the Antarctic region.”

The signing of the memorandum comes days before the 46th Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting opens in India on May 20, and days after the evidence was presented to the United Kingdom House of Commons that Russia had found vast oil and gas reserves in a marine area off the coast of the protected southern continent.

Russian research vessels owned by the Kremlin’s Rosgeo, Russia’s largest geological exploration company, allegedly discovered reserves of some 511 billion barrels of oil in Antarctica’s Weddell Sea, which is simultaneously claimed by Chile, Argentina and the United Kingdom.

The southern continent is inhospitable to humans and is governed by the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, which states that no country owns the territory and that the region is dedicated to peace and science, meaning that all oil exploration is prohibited. EFE


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