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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Upcoming Arctic Council Ministerial

David A. Balton
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs

Washington, DC
May 9, 2011

Date: 05/09/2011 Location: Washington D.C. Description: David A. Balton, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Oceans and Fisheries, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs set the scene for the Upcoming Arctic Council Ministerial. - State Dept Image

2:00 P.M. EDT

MODERATOR: Thanks everyone for coming today. We have David Balton, who is the ambassador for Oceans and Fisheries for the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. He is going to talk about the upcoming Arctic Council Ministerial. He’ll have some opening comments and then we’ll open it for question and answers. So just for the record, if you can please state your name and media organization when you ask your question.

MR. BALTON: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you very much for coming. I don’t have anything formal prepared, so I thought I’d just tell you a little bit about what this meeting is about and then we’ll just open it up for questions.

So the Arctic Council is a high-level forum of the eight nations that have Arctic territory, territory over the Arctic Circle. It meets at the ministerial level every two years, and that’s what’s happening this week in Nuuk, Greenland. May 12th, Thursday, is the actual ministerial meeting. There will be a dinner the night before for the ministers.

And this meeting, we anticipate, will be historic. The Council has been around for, well, since the mid-‘90s. But this is the first time the United States will be represented by our Secretary of State. Secretary Clinton will be traveling to Nuuk, and not only will she be going, but Secretary Salazar – Secretary of the Interior that is – will be going with her and a number of other notables from the United States, all who have a very active interest in Arctic issues.

So that’s sort of what this meeting is. And maybe I’ll just stop there and see what your questions are, and we’ll take it from there.



MR. BALTON: Please.

QUESTION: Alexander Gasyuk, Rossiyskaya Gazeta. It’s a Russian daily newspaper. Sir, I would appreciate if you can say a few words about your general perception of what’s going on in the Arctic right now. I mean, the climate changes, maybe some other things, so --

MR. BALTON: The Arctic is a fascinating part of the world right now. It is undergoing major changes. Many of those changes have to do with the climate. The Arctic is warming faster on average than the rest of the planet. And the warming of the Arctic has very serious consequences both for the Arctic region, but also for the rest of the world.

For the people who live in the Arctic, including the indigenous peoples of the Arctic, ways of life are changing very fundamentally. The sea ice is receding. The coasts are eroding. Land glaciers in the Greenland Ice Sheet are melting. The permafrost is thawing. All of this is creating very significant challenges for the people who live in the Arctic.

Along with those challenges, however, comes some opportunities. The Arctic is home to a considerable portion of the world’s untapped oil and gas. As the ice recedes, it may be possible to have access to some of that – some of those resources that was not possible before. It may also be possible for increased shipping. We already do see some increase in shipping in the Arctic, and it is predicted there will be more. It’s possible new fisheries will take place in the Arctic that did not exist before. And so as governments, we have a lot on our plate with respect to the Arctic; some part of that is within the mandate of the Arctic Council.


QUESTION: Can I continue to – you started with Russia.

MR. BALTON: Yes, of course.

QUESTION: Besides – Alexander Pakhomov, Itar-Tass News Agency, Russian news agency. Besides search-and-rescue operations, what other lines of cooperation do you see between Russia and the United States in the future?

MR. BALTON: Let me start off by saying there has been very good cooperation between the United States and Russia, particularly in recent years relating to the Arctic, both inside the Arctic Council and also bilaterally.

Within the Arctic Council, for example, the United States and Russia together led the exercise to develop the first agreement ever – binding agreement to come out of the Arctic Council process. This is the agreement that I think you were referring to on cooperation on search and rescue through the Arctic. I actually had the privilege of being the co-chair of the group that created this agreement. I had a Russian counterpart ambassador, Anton Vasiliev, of the Russian Foreign Ministry. And the ministers on Thursday will sign this agreement, and I look forward to future cooperation between the U.S. and Russia in the Arctic Council.

Outside of the Council as well, as part of the reset in U.S.-Russian relations in the last couple of years, we have been looking to the Arctic as a place where we might be able to work together on a variety of things. Among other things, there is the effort to create a shared heritage area across the Bering Straits, the so-called Beringian Shared Heritage area. We are hoping also to expand the range of people who can travel across the Bering Strait without visas between the U.S. and Russia, and a number of other things relating to the protection of the environment and the Arctic we are working on with Russia.

So overall, I think it’s a very positive situation for the two governments and the two countries.

Yes, please.

QUESTION: Camille El Hassani, Al Jazeera English. I wondered, other than the search-and-rescue agreements, what other agreements are you – are going to be discussed, like resource division and wildlife preservation – what can we see concrete that will come out of this?

MR. BALTON: I’d answer that in two parts if I can. One of the things that will happen at this meeting is a kind of culmination of work that has been underway for the last period of time. And then there will also be the setting in motion of work to be taken – to be done over the course of the next two years, right.

The – one concrete agreement that will be signed this time is on search and rescue. However, the ministers will also do a number of other things. One is they will establish for the first time a permanent secretariat for the Arctic Council. The Council has never had an administrative office that could manage the paperwork and the meetings and the website, the sort of administrative functions that fora such as the Arctic Council can really use. So they will set one up this Thursday.

They will also receive reports, particularly about climate change and its effects on the Arctic and some recommendations on what to do about at least some of the things causing climate change in the Arctic that are particular to the Arctic, particularly black carbon. But some of it will happen by way of bringing to fruition work that’s gone on recently.

In terms of setting in motion new work, the ministers are likely to agree to a mandate for a new agreement to deal with oil spills that could occur in the Arctic in the future. Those of us who are following the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in the United States last year know that if such a spill were to occur in the Arctic, it would be even worse, because the ability to clean up oil in icy waters is just very difficult to do. And there’s not much infrastructure in the far north to manage such a spill.

So as a first step, it is thought that the Arctic nations should poll their resources and prepare for the possibility of oil spills. And then more broadly, there is a larger effort to deal with the Arctic region as an ecosystem and to manage all the different human activities that will be taking place in the Arctic over the years in so-called ecosystem management basis. The ministers will agree to set in motion an initiative on that subject.

QUESTION: Could I ask –


QUESTION: -- ask a fourth question? My name is Kyoko Yamaguchi. I work for Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper.


QUESTION: If you could talk a little bit about -- further about the secretariat? Where will it be based on? And then also, what’s the need for the secretariat? What is the purpose of creating this secretariat?

MR. BALTON: We don’t actually know yet where it will be based. Norway has put forward an offer to base the secretariat in the city of Tromsø in northern Norway. Iceland has also offered to host the secretariat in Reykjavik. The ministers will need to decide this this week and we don’t actually know what the decision will be.

The secretariat will be small and cost effective, and its functions will be administrative only. There is a need, though, to have a central repository of all of the papers that the Arctic Council produces. There are six different standing working groups under the Arctic Council. They all do a lot of work. There is a need to have a single place to help arrange the meetings and manage the website and do the other sorts of administrative work that secretariats typically do. That’s the best answer I can give you.

QUESTION: And further, how are you going to -- well, obviously, there are many other countries that are interested in resources in Arctic regions. China is, of course, one, and I could probably name other countries. And I’m just wondering how you’re going to envision cooperation with those countries that are not bordering -- facing the Arctic?

MR. BALTON: Right. There are a number of nations not actually in the Arctic that have a keen interest in at least some Arctic issues; you are absolutely right. And indeed, quite a few of the issues affecting the Arctic are naturally of interest even to the whole world. So, for example, climate change is an issue that affects everybody. Shipping is an issue that can be of interest to any nation that may wish to sail ships through the Arctic someday.

But there are other issues that are really exclusive to the Arctic states. So, for example, the United States and Canada have never resolved a boundary between them in the Arctic. I’d say that’s an issue just of interest to the U.S. and Canada. We need to resolve that boundary.

There are within the Arctic Council other nations who participate as observers. And there are yet others that wish to become observers. The ministers this week are likely to approve a newly negotiated set of criteria by which applicants for observer status can be admitted. And then, there will be some new consideration of those who wish to be observers and some decision taken at some point to admit or not those applicants. Japan is one such nation which has observer status, I know.

Yes, ma’am.

QUESTION: Do you expect the U.S.-Canada border disagreement to come up?

MR. BALTON: No. That’s not an issue for the Arctic Council. That’s really just one between the United States and Canada.

QUESTION: But let me follow on that. My name is Paul Koring. I’m with The Globe and Mail, which is –

MR. BALTON: I know.

QUESTION: -- a paper. And I actually lived in the Arctic so long ago, it was before global warming. But is it really the case that that sort of lingering, annoying, and some would say modest, but nevertheless, boundary disputes between various members of the Arctic Council don’t impinge on its activity? I mean, how do you run for instance cooperative ventures on oil spill cleanup if there remain disputes over who is cleaning up what, where? I mean, the 141 Triangle is a perfect example of where that stops being hypothetical and starts being practical. But there are others in the circumpolar area where it – can the Council, for instance, come out with a meaningful and workable way of dealing with oil spills which are much more problematic than, say, search and rescue with these boundary –

MR. BALTON: Disputes.

QUESTION: -- issues outstanding.

MR. BALTON: Well, let me give you an example of how that issue is – we grapple with that issue in the search-and-rescue context and maybe speculate about how we might grapple with it in other contexts. The search-and-rescue agreement that the ministers will sign on Thursday creates eight polygons, areas in the Arctic, one for each of the Arctic nations, and the line separating those areas were drawn without prejudice to the position of any particular nation about where the actual boundary is. We realized we needed a practical solution to this problem in order for search and rescue to be carried our properly, and we found one. So we drew some lines on a map, and – but we understand that those don’t necessarily reflect the actual boundaries between the nations. Similarly, I would think for an oil spill agreement that might be ready two years from now, something similar could be done.

It would be important to know who has responsibility for which areas; you’re absolutely right. But you could, again, draw lines on a map and say they are without prejudice to the place where the boundary might actually exist some day. That said, the U.S. and Russia have a boundary that’s been in place for over 20 years. Norway and Russia recently resolved their boundary dispute in the Bering Sea. And my understanding is that Canada and Denmark are talking about a boundary issue on the other side of Canada –


MR. BALTON: -- about Hans Island and the water around it. And at the highest levels, the U.S. and Canadian governments have determined that we wish to resolve the boundary dispute in the Beaufort Sea as well. So I think we’re heading into a period when the boundaries in the Arctic will, in fact, be resolved sooner rather than later. I hope that answers your question.

QUESTION: Yeah. I’m going to push you on it just a little bit –

MR. BALTON: Please.

QUESTION: -- because the analogy is very valuable. But search and rescue is a much cuddlier issue. Everybody wants to rescue an airplane crash or a ship mishap, and it tends to be very short. If you don’t succeed in an Arctic rescue within a matter of days, you’re doing recovery, and it’s –

MR. BALTON: That’s a fair point. Yeah.

QUESTION: Oil spills, by contrast, can go on for a very long time, be very expensive, and create all sorts of jurisdictional and litigation issues. I mean --

MR. BALTON: Possibly.

QUESTION: It’s a more complex and a more difficult kind of thing.

MR. BALTON: Fair enough.

QUESTION: So is the model – well, I guess the question is: Is the model fair? And do you really think that in the absence of the sort of line drawing that there will be the possibility of achieving that sort of emergency response for --

MR. BALTON: For oil spills?

QUESTION: -- ecological disaster?

MR. BALTON: I think it should be possible. There is a lot of good will that now exists among the Arctic nations, and in my experience – and I’ve been at this for 25 years – where there’s a will there’s a way. Yes, there are unresolved boundaries in the Arctic, but it is also true that oil and gas development is already occurring in parts of the Arctic, and we do need to be responsible and prepare for the possibility of spills, not only from oil wells and drilling, but from ships that might run aground or otherwise have accidents, ships carrying oil that is. And there ought to be a way to divide up the Arctic into areas where each nation has clear authority over a particular areas, notwithstanding the fact that there are unresolved boundary disputes. I have to be optimistic about that.

QUESTION: My colleagues’ indulgence, if I can push you one more time.

MR. BALTON: Please do.

QUESTION: Because it’s not really a boundary dispute, but it’s jurisdictional in the sense that a number of our big Council nations regard the Northwest Passage as an international strait. Canada alone it seems chooses to read international law differently on this matter. But that would seem to be far more important when it comes to oil spills.

MR. BALTON: Potentially.

QUESTION: Simply because – at least in terms of tanker traffic.

MR. BALTON: No, actually, I take that back. If there were – we hope it would never happen – a serious oil spill somewhere inside the Northwest Passage, there’d be no nation, including the United States, that would challenge Canada’s authority and responsibility to have the lead in cleaning that up. That is clearly Canadian water, for purposes of cleaning up any oil spill. The issue about the Northwest Passage instead relates to whether non-Canadian vessels may transit the Northwest Passage without Canadian consent and whether they can only do so subject to Canadian rules. Now, that’s Canada’s position.


MR. BALTON: Others, including the United States, say that is a strait use for international navigation, all vessels are allowed to transit subject to the rules of the law of the sea, and any regulations relating to such transit must be adopted multilaterally. But that doesn’t extend to who has responsibility for cleaning up an oil spill. Canada would.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. BALTON: Who’s next? And also, we have some new friends who have come in.

QUESTION: Sorry for the late arrival.

MR. BALTON: No worries.

QUESTION: We’ll let others ask questions first.

MR. BALTON: Please.

QUESTION: I have a follow up on –

MR. BALTON: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: -- on the colleagues’ from Canada questions with regards to tensions between Arctic countries. There have been some reports about a military buildup in Arctic, several nations – Canada, Demark, Norway, and Russia as well. These are military exercises in the Arctic. Will Arctic Council address the problem of militarization of Arctic?

MR. BALTON: I would start by saying I don't see a problem of militarization in the Arctic. The Arctic, if anything, is characterized as a zone of cooperation. It used to be a zone of conflict during the Cold War. I would say since the end of the Cold War, that has subsided very significantly. Yes, there are Arctic nations that station a military presence in the Arctic, and yes, they conduct training and exercises. But at least from the United States’ perspective, we do not regard the Arctic as a major threat area, militarily or from terrorist attacks or anything like that.

And indeed, there has been good cooperation among the militaries of the Arctic nations in looking at the Arctic. And if anything, I see that as likely to increase over time. The only other thing I would say is that the Arctic Council does not have a mandate to deal with military security issues, and so I don’t expect that to come up at all this week. Those issues, to the extent they need to be discussed anywhere, would be discussed elsewhere, outside of the Arctic Council

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: What role, you think India is –

MODERATOR: Please identify yourself –

QUESTION: I’m sorry. Raghubir Goyal, India Globe and Asia Today. What role do you think India is playing there, because there was some interest as far as signing agreements and all that? And finally, some nations were interested in finding the oil from the Arctic. Is it too difficult, or are they still interested in --

MR. BALTON: So let me try to answer each of your questions. There are quite a few governments, nations from outside the Arctic that have some issues in Arctic issues. We were talking about a moment ago India is one of them. I am not personally aware of what activities the Indian Government has undertaken recently with respect to the Arctic, though. I’m afraid I just don’t have any information on that.

As for oil and gas, yes, a significant percentage of untapped oil and gas does exist in the Arctic. But it is almost all likely to fall within the jurisdiction of one or another of the Arctic nations. If a nation from outside the Arctic wanted to have access to it, it would be just like trying to get access to oil somewhere in the United States. It would have to be a sort of company-to-company type arrangement for drilling or recovery. There will be very little space, if any, in the Arctic that is sort of global commons when it comes to oil and gas or other minerals of the sea floor.

Other questions, please.

QUESTION: Could you give us an update with regard to dealing with the orientation of continental shelf? I mean, the Arctic floor --


QUESTION: Were there any news about that?

MR. BALTON: Let me start with just a background, for those who may not know, and then I’ll answer your question, okay? So under international law, if you are a nation that has a coastline, the first 200 miles of sea floor extending from your coast is automatically part of your continental shelf, regardless of what the sea floor actually looks like, and all of the oil, gas or other minerals on or under the sea floor are your nation’s to explore or exploit, conserve, regulate. And then if you can demonstrate as a nation that the sea floor beyond 200 miles from your coast meets certain criteria set in the Law of the Sea, you can claim that too. And it turns out that there is a significant portion of the Arctic Ocean, central Arctic Ocean that is beyond 200 miles from any of the shores.

Almost certainly it – all of it or almost all of it will qualify as somebody’s so-called extended continental shelf. And there is a process that’s set up by the Law of the Sea Treaty for establishing your claim to it. Nations that are party to this treaty must submit data and analysis to something called the Continental Shelf Commission. Russia and Norway have already done so. Canada and Denmark have deadlines in the next few years to do so. Iceland also has submitted some data for part of its claim, not all of which is in the Arctic proper, I would say.

The United States is not a party to this treaty. We are, nevertheless, collecting and analyzing data about the possible extension of the U.S. continental shelf, both in the Arctic and elsewhere in the world, in the hopes that someday we can achieve what all the other states are doing, namely getting international recognition of the outer limits of our continental shelf.

As for specific updates, you may be most interested in what’s going on with Russia, perhaps?


MR. BALTON: So they were – Russia was the very first government to make such a submission. And my understanding is that the Continental Shelf Commission reviewed the data that Russia initially submitted and asked for some additional research and analysis for Russia to perform, and they are – the Russian Government is in the process of gathering this additional data, and I think is very close to making a follow-on submission to this commission and – in the hopes of finalizing the outer limits of its continental shelf in the Arctic. Norway is also very close to finalizing its outer limits at this point. I hope that answers your question.

QUESTION: Does the United States have any objections of, I mean, Russia’s ambitions through their authority, or Norway ambitions or something like that?

MR. BALTON: When Russia first made its submission, we actually were of the view that it needed further support for a certain area, and I think that is the very area where Russia is trying to gather data in support of its claim. But no, the United States has no objections. As long as the continental shelves are finalized in accordance with the criteria of the Law of the Sea Convention, we, of course, are satisfied, as everyone else would be.


QUESTION: Two little questions. I confess I don’t cover this. I don’t cover the Arctic anymore, sad though I am.

MR. BALTON: Even though you lived there once.

QUESTION: Well, and I’d love to, because that’s – but – one, is this – is the divvying up for search-and-rescue purposes, the polygons, are they public?

MR. BALTON: They will be on May 12th.

QUESTION: But they’re not yet public.

MR. BALTON: No, the agreement is not yet signed, and so the understanding is it will be released on May 12th when it is signed by the ministers. The polygons are written into the agreement in an annex, and then there was also an illustrative map that shows where each of them are.

QUESTION: I’m hoping to get my hands on the map. I’m not doing that before the 12th, I take it.

MR. BALTON: I’m afraid not.

QUESTION: No, that’s fine. And secondly, do you know – and this really isn’t an Arctic Council question, either. I apologize.

MR. BALTON: That’s okay.

QUESTION: But do you know if the U.S. Coast Guard joint community and Coast Guard effort that has gone on the last several years is planned again for this –

MR. BALTON: Yes. This summer --

QUESTION: This summer.

MR. BALTON: -- for the fourth time, and I believe the last time. The --

QUESTION: But that’s a delineation project also, if I remember correctly, or at least the data can be applied in that fashion if the two countries want to do it. Is that – I’ll let you characterize it. I’m sorry.

MR. BALTON: I would answer it this way: So the Canadian cutter The Louis St. Laurent, and the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healey for three summers straight, and now for a fourth summer in 2011, will be doing joint research in that area of the Arctic Ocean north of our shores, Alaska and the Yukon territory. And yes, the data is being collected will be used, certainly by Canada, and we hope by the United States at some point, to help demonstrate the outer limits of both countries’ continental shelves in that part of the Arctic Ocean.

QUESTION: I’m going to ask another search-and-rescue question, if I could, and that is that the – certainly in the past, if the United States military, because it’s significantly larger and more capable, has helped its Arctic neighbors conduct search-and-rescue operations in areas which are clearly sovereign posts for Greenland or Denmark and for Canada. Do the – does the agreement provide for that sort of trans-polygon, if that’s the right word, support and assistance? Because I can imagine big polygons with small resources in some places, including Canada.

MR. BALTON: I would answer it this way: None of the Arctic nations today have adequate resources for search and rescue in the Arctic, in light of the increasing human activity that is already to transpire there, which certainly will increase in the coming years. The agreement, as a first step, is to share what resources we do have available in the event of a search-and-rescue need. And so while there will be eight areas, and within each area one nation will have the lead responsibility, all others through the agreement are committed to help to the extent they can.

There will also be joint training, the enhancing of communication links across all eight nations, to prepare for search-and-rescue incidents. Beyond that, it is my hope that with the agreement in force, all of the Arctic nations may be able to secure greater resources to put to search and rescue and related activities in the Arctic in the coming years.

So to come back to your question, if there were an incident, say, in the Canadian search-and-rescue area and the U.S. were in a position to help, or any other Arctic nation, we would help under this agreement.

Yes, ma’am.

QUESTION: Mina Al-Oraibi. I’m with Arshaq Al-Awsat, Arabic language paper.

MR. BALTON: Yes, ma’am.

QUESTION: I had a couple of questions for you. The first is, what you were saying earlier about the oil spill, possibility of having agreement in two years, is it in the works? What would be required for the agreement to come to fruition? I’ll let you answer that, and then I’ll come back for my second.

MR. BALTON: On Thursday at the Arctic Council ministerial meeting, the ministers will agree to set in motion negotiations toward such an instrument on oil spill preparedness and response. I don’t actually know how long it will take to negotiate. My hope is that it could be done in two years’ time. How and when it would enter into force, those are questions we haven’t even exactly posed yet, so I don’t know the answers. It’s not even essential that that agreement be legally binding. It might be possible to do in a nonbinding way and still have it be effective, but that is something a new task force will need to consider when it gets started this summer.

QUESTION: And then my – thank you – my second question, I mean, it seems from what you’ve laid out that all of the things are already agreed, as many of these international meetings, in advance.

MR. BALTON: Yeah. That’s right.

QUESTION: And is there something in particular that you hope would – that has yet to be settled that will come forward in the meeting, or is it more ceremonial?

MR. BALTON: I guess that there are three parts of an answer to that question. There are a few decisions that the ministers do have to make that have not yet been resolved at the lower levels, I would say. One, we – although they will agree in principle to establish a permanent secretariat for the Arctic Council, they will need to decide where that secretariat will be based, and we don’t yet know that. Another issue that the ministers will need to decide is when will those other nations that which to become observers to the Council be considered for admission.

Those are two, I would say, concrete unresolved issues as we head into this ministerial. But there’s a bigger picture here that should not be lost. The Arctic, all of you know as journalists, has grown very significantly in importance over the last three, four years – largely because of climate change, but for other reasons as well. And the fact that foreign ministers from these nations are gathering together will raise the profile yet farther. I would daresay that our own Secretary’s presence in the Arctic this week, with all the other things that are going on in the world, demonstrates for the United States at least how important the Arctic issues are. And so their very presence will be meaningful beyond the actual pieces of paper they sign and decisions they take.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Since India is signatory of the Law of the Sea Treaty, I think they would enter something to get into the membership of Arctic nations. Is their membership open to the non-Arctic nations, like India for research and for training and some other things?

MR. BALTON: So the Arctic Council is not open for membership unless a nation has territory above the Arctic Circle, and India does not. India might be able to become an observer at the Arctic Council. It may be able to participate in that way in many of the working groups that the Arctic Council has set up on a number of different topics. India and other non-Arctic nations can also engage in Arctic issues in a lot of other places around the world. Here’s one example – shipping issues, including in the Arctic are not actually the responsibility of the Arctic Council. They are dealt with by a different forum, the International Maritime Organization. India is a full member. In fact, most nations of the world are full members. And the IMO, the International Maritime Organization is, as we speak, developing a new polar shipping code, and India and any of the other governments with an interest in polar shipping growth in the Arctic and Antarctic can participate in that process.

Yes, ma’am.

QUESTION: Do you know how many countries are looking to become observers? Do you have an idea of that?

MR. BALTON: Yes. I hope I’ve got this right. (Laughter.) So those that do not currently have observer status but would like it include the People’s Republic of China, Japan, Republic of Korea, and Italy. And in addition to those four, the European Commission also seeks observer status, as do some nongovernmental entities.

QUESTION: Do you have already a set of criteria for becoming an observer country, or do you have to agree on that also?

MR. BALTON: That is one of the things the ministers will agree to on Thursday – a new set of criteria for judging applications for observers.

QUESTION: Will you tell us what might be included in this criteria at this point?

MR. BALTON: So as with the search-and-rescue agreement, it’s not for public release until Thursday. But generally speaking, one of the key things that an observer would need to be able to demonstrate is an ability to contribute to the work of the Arctic Council in some meaningful way, and there may be any number of ways a government or a nongovernmental organization, for that matter, could do so. But there will be some other parts of the criteria – I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until Thursday.

QUESTION: Just a general question, but can you say, for example, a country in the Northern Hemisphere are more likely to – or does that not matter?

MR. BALTON: Gee, I’m not sure I would necessarily say so. It happens that – well, there are many more nations in the Northern Hemisphere. That’s one thing. And those that have sought admission as observers all from the Northern Hemisphere. But there would – Argentina, for example, I think has from time to time expressed issues in Arctic issues. And if they have, maybe it – because they are also very involved in Antarctic issues, they would want to be able – for their scientists, for example – to engage with the Arctic Council on certain scientific questions that are similar on both – in both polar regions.

QUESTION: One more quickly. Since this is the Arctic – of course, it’s like end of the world. I mean, as far as research is concerned, are there some kind of research going on as far as predicting the correct future weather so tsunamis – the scientists were engaged in those –

MR. BALTON: So there is very significant – there is a very significant amount of research being done in the Arctic. In fact, we’ve just finished the international polar year, which brought together scientists from not only the Arctic and Antarctic nations, but from other parts of the world as well. And one of the things that the Council does – the Arctic Council does best is science. They have produced not only the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment this year, they have another report on the so-called cryosphere, the ice-covered areas of the Arctic, which is very much about climate change. It is an attempt to capture how much the climate is changing in the Arctic and what the affects of those changes are for the Arctic and, frankly, for the rest of the world as well. So yes, there is a great deal of science that is being done and will need to continue to be done.

QUESTION: I’m going to have one last kick of my search-and-rescue –

MR. BALTON: You go for it.

QUESTION: With the increasing number of transpolar flights, the – when you lose an aircraft at high –

MR. BALTON: High latitudes.

QUESTION: -- latitudes, if you’re drawing polygons on sectors, it may not entirely be clear who has authority to begin with. Has that gone into the thinking of behind the drawing of your shapes?

MR. BALTON: Gee, I’m not sure how to answer that one. You’ve finally stumped me. If a plane goes down – unless it’s entirely lost which can happen – you know latitude and longitude of where it is, and that will fit within –

QUESTION: Well, it’s not exactly that with Air France 447.

MR. BALTON: So there can be exceptions, yes.

QUESTION: And high latitude – a high latitude loss of communication could create exactly that confusion.

MR. BALTON: Yeah. Well, I don’t know how that would operate in practice. I’m not a search-and-rescue expert, but here’s my guess. The nations who are involved on the path that the flight was taking would do what they could to figure out where the plane went down; they’d work together. One thing I was impressed as a participant of these negotiations on the search-and-rescue agreement is how much communication and coordination there already exists among the search-and-rescue agencies of all eight nations, particularly those that border each other. We were not drawing on a blank slate. There are established relationships between – especially between the U.S. and Canada, U.S. and Russia, other pairs of neighbors throughout the Arctic region. This agreement really is a way to enhance cooperation that already exists.

QUESTION: And the ministers know that the moment you publish a map in the Arctic, people (inaudible). (Laughter.) They will, right?

MR. BALTON: So be it.

QUESTION: So it doesn’t matter how many caveats are attached to it –

MR. BALTON: So be it.

QUESTION: Sorry, sir. Again, this is partly because I had to come in late, but just to be clear. The agreements that will come about will maintain that each country will be in charge of the search-and-rescue within the polygon that is assigned to it. So it’s not like putting together resources or anything like that?

MR. BALTON: I would answer it this way: If a search-and-rescue mission needs to be started in any – in a search-and-rescue area of a given nation, that nation will have the lead responsibility to coordinate the mission.


MR. BALTON: However, we all know that we are lacking in resources, and it may be that one of your neighbors – one of our neighbors actually has resources to bring to bear that are even better or more available than ours. The agreement will commit us to help each other to the extent possible. That is the basic idea. And over the long run, I hope will bring more resources to bear overall to search and rescue in the Arctic.


MR. BALTON: Final questions, anyone? Thank you.

QUESTION: How many oranges did you juggle?

MR. BALTON: Just three, but it was in front of 2,000 people twice in a row. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: And you didn’t drop them.


QUESTION: Good for you. That’s a great –

MR. BALTON: No, that’s a great story there, but that’s off the record. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: That’s a great view.

MR. BALTON: Thank you all very much for your attention.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. BALTON: I appreciate your questions.


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