Although you might think that the North Pole is nothing but a barren wilderness populated only by polar bears and Santa, a surprisingly large number of countries are getting surprisingly bitchy about who owns it — mostly because of the oil underneath. Today, Denmark added its name to the list.
In case you're not up on your North Pole geopolitics, here's a quick rundown: everyone with even the faintest hope of claiming the North Pole wants it, because people think there's a tonne of minerals and oil lurking under the surface. There's five real players in this game, all of whom border the Arctic: the US (thanks Alaska!), Canada, Russia, Norway and Denmark.
To stake a claim to the Arctic and all that mineral goodness involves more than just planting a flag there (not that that stopped Russia!): countries have to claim that their continental shelf extends into the Arctic, making it part of their territory, and thus giving them exclusive economic rights over the sea floor. In practice, that means paying a team of scientists heinous amounts of money to make a plausible case to the UN body that will ultimately decide this mess.
Only Russia and Canada had bothered doing that, until today. According to an Associated Press report, the Denmark delivered its claim to the UN today. Apparently, there's an underwater mountain range that runs 1,240 miles north of Siberia, which is attached to Greenland, itself a semi-autonomous Danish territory. Thus, oil for Denmark!
That sounds about as convincing as all the other cases that have been made to the UN panel so far. I can't imagine carving up this whole mess is going to be easy; let's just hope no-one gets in a nuke-lobbing mood over it. [Associated Press]
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