U.S. investing in research to prove its Arctic claim but cannot make them official as a non-party to UNCLOS
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The United States is among the countries that believe they have a stake in this Arctic sweepstakes, though it alone is a non-signatory country to UNCLOS. In 2008, the U.S. government spent $5.6 million to prove that the United States’ continental shelf off Alaska extends beyond the 200-mile EEZ limit.51 This research, conducted by the U.S. Extended Continental Shelf Project (ECSP), a task force made up of eleven different agencies, has been ongoing since 2001 in anticipation of the ratification of the convention. In addition to sending cruises to map the arctic seafloor, the U.S. ECSP also conducts seafloor-mapping research off the Atlantic East Coast, the Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf of Alaska, in the Bering Sea, the Kingman Reef, and the Marianas Islands.
However, since the United States is not a signatory state to UNCLOS, it does not have access to the forum in which potential claims could be protected. Despite being deeply involved in the initial actions that led to the creation of UNCLOS, the United States has yet to ratify the treaty. President Reagan described the treaty as “socialism run amok” and a “third world giveaway.”52 Conservatives strongly dissent with the claim made by the convention that seabed wealth beyond territorial limits is the world’s common heritage. Yet there is significant area north of current holdings off the Alaskan North Slope that could be solidified, and claimed as within American territorial limits. This seems to be at the heart of the shift away from such a hardline Republican position: Other countries are extending the delineation of their territory, and less is being left as “common heritage."53