16 Feb 2014

US to appoint envoy to 'last frontier'

10:47 am on 16 February 2014

The United States has announced it will appoint a special envoy to the Arctic, a region increasingly coveted by several countries for its oil and other raw materials.

US Secretary of State John Kerry pointed to the huge resources that lie in the northernmost polar region as he unveiled plans on Friday to name a senior "official of stature" to advance American interests as Washington prepares to chair the eight-country Arctic Council next year.

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Photo: AFP

"The Arctic region is the last global frontier and a region with enormous and growing geo-strategic, economic, climate, environment and national security implications for the United States and the world," Mr Kerry said in a statement.

"The great challenges of the Arctic matter enormously to the United States, and they hit especially close to home for Alaska."

AFP reports six of the eight Arctic nations - Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Russia and the United States - currently have ambassador-level diplomats representing them before the Arctic council. Parts of Alaska and other US territories lie in the Arctic.

"President (Barack) Obama and I are committed to elevating our attention and effort to keep up with the opportunities and consequences presented by the Arctic's rapid transformation - a very rare convergence of almost every national priority in the most rapidly - changing region on the face of the Earth," Mr Kerry said.

Alaska Senator Mark Begich, who has pushed legislation for a US envoy to the region since 2008, called the decision an "important step in the right direction."

"The bottom line is that the changes we see in the Arctic warrant a higher level of involvement from the US and this position will allow us to better exercise leadership and vision in Arctic policy moving forward," the Democratic politician added.