Nov 22, 2013 3:47 PM by Joe Bevans
HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (AP) - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the U.S. will assert its sovereignty in newly opening areas of the Arctic, even as Russia and other nations stake claims and expand their use of the icy waters for military exercises and transit. In remarks prepared for delivery, Hagel also says energy exploration in the largely untapped Arctic region could heighten international tensions, but countries must work together to avoid conflict. He says it is critical to map out long-range plans for the Arctic, even as the U.S. struggles with deep and abrupt budget cuts. Hagel is laying out the Pentagon's new Arctic strategy at a security forum in Halifax. The military is finalizing plans to expand operations in the Arctic as melting ice caps open sea lanes. But the effort will take money and resources to fill gaps in communications and capabilities.