MOSCOW - Russia must defend its claims to mineral riches of the Arctic in increasing competition with other powers, President Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday.
Medvedev said global climate change will likely fuel arguments between nations seeking access to energy and other resources.
"Other polar nations already have taken active steps to expand their scientific research as well as economic and even military presence in the Arctic," he told a session of the presidential Security Council.
Medvedev added that attempts have been made to limit Russia's access to Arctic resources, but he didn't name a specific nation.
"Regrettably, we have seen attempts to limit Russia's access to the exploration and development of the Arctic mineral resources," he said. "That's absolutely inadmissible from the legal viewpoint and unfair given our nation's geographical location and history."
Russia claims a large part of the Arctic seabed as its own, arguing that it is an extension of its continental shelf. In 2007, scientists staked a symbolic claim by dropping a canister containing the Russian flag onto the seabed from a small submarine.
The United States, Canada, Denmark and Norway have also been trying to assert jurisdiction over parts of the Arctic, which is believed to contain as much as a quarter of the Earth's undiscovered oil and gas.
The dispute has intensified amid growing evidence that global warming is shrinking polar ice, opening up new shipping lanes and new resource development opportunities.
Catherine Loubier, a spokeswoman for Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon, said Wednesday: "Canada's sovereignty over lands, islands and waters of the Canadian Arctic is long-standing, well-established and based on historical title."
"This government is dedicated to fulfilling the North's true potential as a healthy, prosperous and secure region within a strong and sovereign Canada. We take our responsibility for the future of the region seriously," she said in Canada.
Her country is hosting foreign ministers of the five Arctic states - Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the U.S. - in Chelsea, Quebec, on March 29.
Loubier noted that Canada has committed to building a High Arctic research station that will continue to map "our northern resources and waters."
Canada also has announced a new fleet of Arctic patrol ships, a deep water port, and is expanding and re-equipping the Canadian Rangers.
In 2008, Medvedev signed an Arctic strategy paper saying that the polar region must become Russia's "top strategic resource base" by the year 2020.
The document called for strengthening border guard forces in the region and updating their equipment, while creating a new group of military forces to "ensure military security under various military-political circumstances."
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