The Kingdom of Denmark is preparing to claim ownership of the North Pole, according to a Danish media report.
In a document leaked to the Danish newspaper Information, Denmark will ask the United Nations to recognize the North Pole as a geologic extension of Greenland, the vast Arctic island that is a Danish territory. Danish Foreign Minister Lene Espersen confirmed the annexation attempt, Information reported.
According to The Copenhagen Post, "The kingdom is expected to make a demand for the continental shelf in five areas around the Faroe Islands and Greenland, including the North Pole itself."
Denmark has set its sights on the geographic North Pole, a fixed point in the Arctic Ocean at 90 degrees north latitude and 0 degrees longitude. The magnetic north pole, the one your Cub Scout compass points to, is near there but moves around all the time as Earth's magnetic field shifts, according to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.
Five countries - Canada, Denmark (via Greenland), Norway, Russia and the United States (via Alaska) - have coasts on the Arctic Ocean, but none has ever claimed ownership of the pole. Working under a United Nations mandate, high-ranking diplomats have met several times to work out a plan for mutually acceptable boundaries.
"We are in the middle of an important and civilized process of how to usefully manage the last area in the world not owned by anyone," Greenland President Kuupik Kleist told Information. "... If we did not, we would leave it to those who have already filed claims, or who will do it. It is therefore a must that Denmark is preparing claims."
It's unclear how the claim will go over with the other Arctic countries, but initial reactions have been mild.
Despite longstanding Russian interest in the region, at least one Russian media outlet was sanguine about Denmark's approach.
"This fits in well into the contemporary international law regime of the Arctic," Vassily Gutsulyak, an expert with the Institute of State and Law in the Russian Academy of Sciences, said in an interview with The Voice of Russia.
Although the Danish document downplays the economic potential of its proposed claim, the Voice of Russia said the region holds vast reserves of gas and oil, as well as such minerals as coal, gold, copper, nickel, tin and platinum. Climate change also promises to open useful shipping routes across the Arctic, it said.
A Canadian expert greeted the news with enthusiasm.
"This is a positive development because Denmark ... is working in a framework of international law," University of British Columbia (Canada) professor Michael Byers told Postmedia News. "It is exactly how these matters are supposed to be resolved."
However, not all Canadians are willing to let the pole go without a fight. A tongue-in-cheek editorial on the online forum The Mark said:
"We'll be damned if we let those no-good, well-dressed, soft-spoken, architecturally inclined, generally peaceable Danes get away with it."