MOSCOW: Russia pressed a claim at the United Nations Tuesday for an additional 1.2 million square kilometres (463,000 square miles) of Arctic shelf, an area of escalating international tension.
In a submission to back a 2001 claim at the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, Russia said research showed it had rights over the swathe an area the size of South Africa.
This would include the North Pole and potentially give Russia access to an estimated 4.9 billion tonnes of hydrocarbons, according to government estimates.
The Arctic has become a theatre for rival claims over a sea floor believed to be rich in minerals, oil and gas.
Under international law, a country has exclusive economic rights over the continental shelf within a 200-nautical-mile (370-km) radius from its coast.
However Arctic nations have been jostling to claim greater areas.
They have been spurred by the shrinkage of Arctic sea ice, which opens up the potential for new transport routes and mineral and energy exploitation.
Russia says extensive research spanning several years proves its continental shelf extends far beyond the 200-nautical-mile radius.
Its claim includes the Mendeleev Rise and the Lomonosov Ridge, which has also been claimed by Denmark and Canada. Russia argues they, like the North Pole, are part of the Eurasian continent.
Russia previously submitted a claim to the UN commission in 2001 but was told it contained insufficient supporting scientific data.
Since then, Russian scientists have carried out several high-profile research expeditions to the Arctic.
Russia’s foreign ministry said the submission had “priority” status and expected it to be reviewed by the UN commission in the fall.
President Vladimir Putin has strengthened Russia’s focus on the Arctic in recent years.
The Russian government established a special commission for Arctic development this year to oversee economic projects and national security in the region.
Russia also held war games in the region, even sending paratroopers to an ice floe.
Last week, it announced that its revised navy doctrine would be heavily concentrated on the Arctic area.