US Maritime Territory Expands by 386,000 Square Miles: A Strategic Move in Maritime Sovereignty

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The United States has recently undergone a significant expansion, adding 386,000 square miles (6.21 lakh square kilometers) to its territory. This expansion is due to the inclusion of six regions’ submerged offshore areas, known as the extended continental shelf (ECS), into the total landmass. The ECS, primarily under shallow water beyond 200 nautical miles, represents a major shift in the country’s maritime boundaries.

The Arctic: A Strategic Expansion

The largest ECS area for the US lies in the Arctic. Extending 350 miles north and over 680 miles in the western region, this addition has major implications for US efforts in securing territorial rights in the Arctic. The Arctic region, rich in oil, natural gas, minerals, and sea life, is a key area of economic interest for the United States.

Implications for Maritime Sovereignty

The extension of the ECS is a significant milestone in US engagement with maritime law, reflecting the country’s adherence to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. This expansion not only enhances the US’s sovereign rights over submerged areas but also plays a crucial role in conserving and managing marine resources and habitats.

The Role of USGS and NOAA

The expansion is based on data collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the US Geological Survey (USGS). These agencies have been instrumental in analyzing and defining the ECS, ensuring that the extension aligns with international law and the United States’ strategic interests.

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Global Implications

The US now has the largest exclusive economic zone on the planet. This expansion is not just about increasing landmass; it’s about securing sovereign rights to vital underwater territories. The Wilson Centre, a Washington, DC-based think tank, emphasizes the significance of this move in advancing major US interests, particularly in the Arctic.

A New Chapter in US History

This expansion of the United States by nearly twice the size of Spain marks a new chapter in the country’s history. It underscores the importance of maritime zones in global politics and the ongoing efforts of nations to secure their maritime boundaries and resources.

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