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The U.S. expands territory by one million squares kilometers

The U.S. expands territory by one million squares kilometers

The U.S. expands territory by one million squares kilometers

In a momentous development, the United States has formally enlarged its geographical expanse by a million square kilometers—equivalent to nearly 60 percent of the size of Alaska. 

The trigger for this territorial expansion lies in the redefinition of the U.S. continental shelf boundaries.

By invoking international law, the State Department has delineated new undersea areas where the continental shelf, an underwater region surrounding substantial landmasses with relatively shallow waters, extends beyond previously acknowledged limits. 

This substantial addition spans seven distinct oceanic regions, with more than half situated in the Arctic.

The crux of understanding this expansion lies in the concept of the Extended Continental Shelf (ECS). 

According to international law, coastal nations can lay claim to these extended shelves, along with the authority to manage and exploit their resources. 

Moreover, with this expansion, the U.S. aligns with over 75 countries that have defined their ECS limits, extending beyond 200 nautical miles from their coasts.

The journey leading to this announcement commenced in 2003, involving collaboration among multiple agencies led by the U.S. State Department, NOAA, and the U.S. Geological Survey. 

The mission aimed to gather comprehensive geological data to determine the outer limits of the U.S. continental shelf. Culminating on December 19, 2023, the State Department disclosed the new coordinates marking the U.S. ECS.

The claimed areas encompass the Arctic, the east coast Atlantic, the Bering Sea, the west coast Pacific, the Mariana Islands, and two Gulf of Mexico regions. 

This significant expansion, equivalent in size to double the state of California, notably fortifies the nation’s control over marine resources.

Mead Treadwell, former Alaska lieutenant governor and ex-chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, remarked, “America is larger than it was yesterday,” emphasizing the substantial increase in land and subsurface resources. 

State Department project director Brian Van Pay highlighted the extensive 20-year, multi-agency fieldwork that collected data about the seafloor and sediment layers.

Despite lacking formal ratification by the U.S. Senate, this claim adheres to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. 

Treadwell expressed confidence in the scientific foundation, while the Arctic claim aligns with a 1990 maritime boundary agreement with Russia.

The declaration does not extend U.S. jurisdiction over the water column or fishing rights beyond 200 miles off its coast but concentrates on seabed control, including mining, research rights, and pipeline activities. 

The largest section lies north of Alaska, coupled with a smaller Bering Sea segment, collectively nearing the size of Texas.

The Extended Continental Shelf (ECS) refers to the seabed and subsoil extending beyond a country’s 200-nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). 

Countries must undergo a scientific and legal process, submitting detailed geological and hydrographic data to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) to assert rights to this area.

This process entails advanced oceanographic surveys and rigorous scientific analysis due to the high stakes involved. 

The ECS contains vast resources crucial for the global economy, such as oil, gas, and minerals. 

Moreover, it holds environmental significance with diverse ecosystems, emphasizing the need for responsible stewardship and international collaboration for sustainable development.

In conclusion, the Extended Continental Shelf represents a frontier of immense potential, offering economic, scientific, and environmental opportunities. As nations navigate this new terrain, responsible stewardship and international collaboration will be essential for unlocking its full potential while preserving its integrity for future generations.

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