Monday, December 31, 2012


12/31/2012 Reptiles on Ice
Revised 1/24/2015  Thank you Chris Avena for permission 2/16/2014

Reptiles on Ice? For The Past Several Summers China ("The Dragon")Went Where Reptiles Fear to Tread.

 The summer navigation season is over in the High Arctic and all of the ice breakers are back in home ports. In 2013 for the first time a nation with no Arctic Coast fielded ice breakers to the region and conducted oceanographic research. That nation was our old nemesis, the swimming dragon, China. The Dragon has signed vessel support agreements in the region, returned and declared its intentions and asserted specific rights in the region. Oddly the Dragon takes a diametrically opposite view of the Arctic Ocean than it does of the China Seas. Despite the fact that the China Seas are surrounded by many different nations China has declared themselves as sole owner of the China Seas and their intention to control all oil and gas leasing and even rights of transits. Yet in the even more enclosed Arctic Ocean China appears to be the champion of Freedom of the Seas, declaring their right to use the Arctic Ocean for transit and oceanographic research. The U.S. of course doesn't deny the Dragon those rights, but Russia claims virtually the entire ocean short of the 12 mile territorial seas of the states with Arctic coast lines. 

 Last summer the Chinese were active in the High Arctic again. Now, their data gathered, the Dragons ice swimming pups have returned to their more temperate home ports. Their raw data is now being utilized in research and analysis for purposes unknown but highly likely not in the interests of the United States. One possible use for Arctic data by China is to support claims by Russia to almost the entire floor of the Arctic Ocean. The United States is running out of time to establish a persistent Coast Guard and NOAA corps presence in the High Arctic. We carried the story below back in the summer of 2012 when the Dragon entered our northern most icy waters. We thought it time to  review and update the events. Make no mistake the Chinese position on the High Arctic which so resembles the U.S., Philippine, Japanese, Vietnam positions on the China Seas is not evidence of any legal epiphany on the part of the Dragon, it is simply a manifestation of the Dragon's status as a "thug state". The Dragon sees no need for consistency in its application or violation of international law. What counts is what does the Dragon want. That must be obtained by any means possible..

China which has no Arctic or Antarctic coast line is investing in icebreakers for the High Arctic where the United States has over a thousand miles of coastline to protect. Indeed on July 19, 2012 the Chinese Ice Breaker XUELONG (meaning "Snow Dragon") arrived in the Arctic Ocean where it will be working until September.  The U.S. Coast Guard with over a thousand miles of High Arctic coast line and outer continental shelf to protect had only one working Ice breaker at that moment the Coast Guard Cutter Healy commissioned in 2000. The service has since refurbished one of its two older inactive Ice Breakers , but in fact, had been take parts from one to restore the other while the Chinese have just signed a contract to build another Snow Dragon.

 Russia , Canada, and all other nations with Arctic coast lines have at least three to five ice breakers.
China, with no Arctic coast line, has one roaming the area every navigation season, one under contract for construction, and at least one more planned. As WORKBOAT (the magazine) recently put it: "Washington has forfeited its ability to assert sovereignty in the Arctic by allowing its icebreaker fleet to atrophy"
We agree. How far will the Dragon swim? What's to stop it from swimming into Nome? 

 As the summer navigation season came to a close the United States left unanswered the challenge of the Snow Dragon. Year after year as the Federal fiscal year draws to a close the moribund Congress is focused on the fiscal cliff and the nation's need to protect its Arctic Coast , Territorial Sea, and Exclusive Economic Zone remain un-addressed. Expect the Snow Dragon back again next summer. Don't expect any expanded U.S. Coast Guard presence to meet it.

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