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The Pentagon on Friday unveiled a new strategy to defend the Arctic region from security threats as Russia builds up cold-weather forces in the region and China prepares to claim resources.Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said during a speech in Canada that melting northern polar ice is opening new sea routes and that is increasing the risk of a future conflict and competition for energy resources,The comments at an Arctic security conference come as Russia is preparing to deploy two Arctic brigades and bolstering military bases in the region.China meanwhile also is seeking access to new oil and gas resources that are becoming more accessible in the polar region.Hagel, in a speech to an international security forum, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, said “the Arctic region is peaceful, stable, and free of conflict.”“Our goal is to help assure it stays that way,” he said. “Ultimately we envision a secure and stable Arctic where all nations’ interests are safeguarded and where all nations work together; they work together to address problems and resolve differences.”Hagel outlined an eight-point plan for U.S. security objectives in the polar region.The main goal is to “remain prepared to detect, deter, prevent, and defeat threats to our homeland,” he said, adding that “we will continue to exercise U.S. sovereignty in and around Alaska.”Another goal is to ensure that as northern sea routes open in the future the United States is prepared to maintain freedom of navigation.Melting polar ice has opened a northern sea route to shipping, mostly by commercial freighters. Ships transits along the route that stretches to both the northern Atlantic and Pacific oceans are expected to increase tenfold this year compared to last year, Hagel said.Also, at least one-fourth of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas resources is said to be located in the largely frozen Arctic Ocean. The ocean includes both international waters and ice and areas that are part of 200-mile economic exclusion zones of several states.Warmer global temperatures in recent years have created more open passages that early 20th century explorers had called the Northwest Passage for trade between east and west.Hagel said growing access to the Arctic has created “a flood of interest in energy exploration [that] has the potential to heighten tensions.”The U.S. military has been operating in the Arctic for decades. Currently more than 22,000 troops and 5,000 guardsmen and reservists are based in Alaska. Pentagon Arctic capabilities include ski-equipped C-130s and nuclear submarines.Hagel urged international states interested in the Arctic to cooperate and work together for a “peaceful and secure region.”“Throughout human history, mankind has raced to discover the next frontier,” he said. “And time after time, discovery was swiftly followed by conflict.We cannot erase this history, but we can assure that history does not repeat itself in the Arctic.”Russia since 2011 has launched a significant military buildup in the northern polar region and U.S. intelligence agencies are closely monitoring the military activities and the buildup of forces.Russian President Vladimir Putin announced last year that Moscow’s naval forces would add 51 warships and 16 submarines to its forces by 2020. The buildup is needed to protect “national economic interests, in particular in such regions as the Arctic,” Putin said.Russia announced in July that it would deploy two Arctic brigades of troops by 2015 and in September launched the first military training school for Arctic military operations. The training will prepare troops to fight in extremely low temperatures and winter darkness.Military equipment for the training includes the use of snowmobiles, off-road vehicles, and tracked armored and utility vehicles.Other military developments include the establishment of new military bases on Russia’s northern coast and construction of what is expected to be the world’s largest nuclear-powered ice-breaking ship. Moscow also plans special military patrol aircraft for the region.MiG-31 jets are set for deployment at a base on the island of Novaya Zemlaya, near the Barents Sea, by the end of the year.The Russians, according to U.S. officials, view the United States as a challenger for resources in the region. “The clash for the Arctic and its natural resources and capabilities is escalating,” retired Gen. Leonid Ivashov said in June 2012.Meanwhile, China signaled its stake in the northern sea route in August 2012 when its icebreaker, the Xue Long, completed a 10,000-mile journey from Qingdao to Iceland across the polar route.A U.S. official said China has a growing interest in the Arctic and is seeking a polar route. Beijing is increasing support for Arctic initiatives and recently funded an Artic Institute at the China Ocean University.The Chinese also have leased space at North Korea’s Chingjin port as a foothold for access to the Artic.China also is investing in ice-breaking ships.The Chinese could use the northern route to shorten the shipping route for goods from China to Europe by avoiding the much longer route through the Suez Canal, Indian Ocean, and Southeast Asia.