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October 18, 2015

At International Assembly in Iceland, King Continues Push for Greater U.S. Leadership in Arctic

Outlines challenges, opportunities in rapidly changing region

REYKJAVIK, ICELAND – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), a founding co-chair of the Senate Arctic Caucus and a member of both the Senate Armed Services and Energy and Natural Resources Committees, this morning participated in an Arctic Circle Assembly Plenary Session in which he continued his push for increased U.S. leadership in the Arctic. In his remarks, Senator King also spoke to the various security, environmental, economic, and social issues that make the region a significant policy priority for the U.S. and the world.

            “The rapidly changing Arctic environment presents the United States, our Arctic neighbors, and the global community with a host of challenges, ‎like working to blunt the impact of climate change or finding ways to peacefully and responsibly pursue new commercial ventures,” Senator King said. “But inherent in those challenges are also opportunities – opportunities for nations to work together to cultivate prosperity and expand educational and cultural exchanges that could define the future of the Arctic. The United States – and Maine in particular – is well-positioned to take advantage of those opportunities, and I believe it is our responsibility to advance constructive, forward-thinking leadership that will foster cooperation and ensure stability in the region for generations to come, and I believe we must start doing so now.”

The Plenary Session, which was moderated by Rob Barber, the U.S. Ambassador to Iceland, and included Rear Admiral Mathias Winter, the U.S. Navy Chief of Naval Research; Fran Ulmer, Chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission and Special Advisor to the State Department on Arctic Science and Policy; Mark Brzezinkski, the former U.S. Ambassador to Sweden, and Ben Ziff, State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nordic/Baltic Affairs, focused on U.S. Chairmanship of the Arctic Council and how to use this opportunity to strengthen U.S. leadership in the Arctic region.

Senator King arrived in Iceland on Friday along with other members of a delegation from Maine that includes local and state officials, business leaders, researchers, educators, and trade experts. During his time in Reykjavik, Senator King met with various officials from Iceland, Norway, Greenland, and the United States. He also delivered remarks at the Arctic Circle Assembly’s opening session on Friday in which he similarly emphasized that the Arctic presents interested nations with an unprecedented opportunity to work together.

As member of both the Senate Armed Services and Energy and Natural Resources Committees, Senator King has repeatedly highlighted dynamic security, environmental, and commercial factors in the Arctic that require the U.S. to enhance its engagement in the region. Together with Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the Chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, he founded the Senate Arctic Caucus in March of this year to spotlight the Arctic and open up a wider conversation about the nation’s future in the region. Last month, he spoke about the changing Arctic environment at the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C., where he urged leading Arctic experts and scientists to provide policymakers with comprehensive data on regional changes so that they can make sound policy decisions.

Senator King has also advocated for several steps to bolster the U.S. presence in the Arctic, including:

  • Appointing a United States Ambassador to the Arctic.
  • Acceding to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
  • Examining the need for long-lead investments in infrastructure, like ice-breakers and search and rescue assets. Senator King recently supported the President’s announcement that he will direct his Administration to pursue building more icebreakers.
  • Evaluating the unique challenges Arctic shipping faces, from claims of ownership over international straits to the emission of black carbon that contributes to a climate feedback effect to inadequate charting.
  • Safeguarding U.S. national security interests as well as those of our Allies and partners in order to maintain the Arctic as a sphere of peace and stability.

In his continued call for increased U.S. engagement in the Arctic, Senator King has also stressed the important role that Maine has to play in this effort. He has said that Maine could be the eastern gateway to the Artic, operating as a hub for commerce and cooperation with Eastport, Searsport and Portland being the closest U.S. deep-water ports on the east coast. He also helped the City of Portland secure a bid to host a meeting of the Arctic Council in 2016.

This is Senator King’s first trip to Iceland, a small part of which lies within the Arctic Circle. He has traveled to the Arctic twice in the past two years. In April, he and Senator Murkowski traveled with Secretary of State Kerry to Iqaluit, Canada where the United States formally assumed its two-year tenure as Chair of the Arctic Council. In March of 2014, he traveled in the Arctic aboard the USS New Mexico, a nuclear-powered submarine, as part of the U.S. Navy’s tri-annual Ice Training Exercise (ICEX).

The annual Arctic Circle Assembly, which ends today, brought together hundreds of interested organizations from across the globe in order to build on the dialogue about the Arctic and strengthen the international focus on the future of the Arctic. The Assembly has become the largest international gathering on the Arctic, attracting more than 1,500 participants from nearly 50 countries. The Assembly is held each October at the Harpa Conference Center and Conference Hall in Reykjavik, Iceland.


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