Statement by Deputy Press Secretary Speakes on United States Antarctic Policy

March 29, 1982

The United States has significant political, security, economic, environmental, and scientific interests in Antarctica. These are reflected in the Antarctic Treaty of 1959. The system established by that treaty has permitted its parties, who maintain different positions concerning claims to territorial sovereignty in Antarctica, to work together to further scientific research and to ensure that Antarctica does not become the scene or object of international discord.

President Reagan has affirmed the United States commitment to a leadership role in Antarctica, both in the conduct of scientific research on and around the continent and in the system of international cooperation established pursuant to the Antarctic Treaty. Following review of a study of U.S. interests in Antarctica prepared by the interagency Antarctic Policy Group, the President has decided that:

-- The United States Antarctic Program shall be maintained at a level providing an active and influential presence in Antarctica, designed to support the range of U.S. Antarctic interests.

-- This presence shall include the conduct of scientific activities in major disciplines, year-round occupation of the South Pole and two coastal stations, and availability of related necessary logistics support.

-- Every effort shall be made to manage the program in a manner that maximizes cost-effectiveness and return on investment.

The President also decided that the National Science Foundation will continue to budget for and manage the entire U.S. Program in Antarctica, including logistic support activities, so that the program may be managed as a single package. The U.S. Antarctic Program would continue to draw upon logistic support capabilities of other government agencies, including the Departments of Defense and Transportation, on a cost-reimbursable basis.

In another development of direct importance to U.S. Antarctic policy, the United States has ratified the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. This new agreement will establish international mechanisms and create legal obligations necessary for the protection and conservation of the marine living resources found in the waters surrounding Antarctica. It was adopted at a diplomatic conference in Australia in May 1980. The United States, along with the other Consultative Parties, signed the Convention in September 1980. [The other 13 Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties include Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, the Federal Republic of Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, South Africa, the U.S.S.R., and the U.K. The German Democratic Republic also signed the Convention.] Last December the Senate gave its advice and consent to ratification, and President Reagan signed the instrument of ratification on February 2. That instrument was conveyed to the Government of Australia, the depositary government, on February 18.

The U.S. ratification is the seventh of the eight necessary to bring the Convention into force. The Convention is expected to enter into force within the next few months, and the first meetings of the machinery established by the Convention are expected in May and June of this year.

The significance of this Convention lies not only in its environmental and resource management provisions and objectives; it also represents an important example of international cooperation among the Consultative Parties of the Antarctic Treaty.