JUNEAU, Alaska — The U.S. State Department plans to create an arctic representative position to highlight the growing importance of that region.
In letters sent to Alaska's two U.S. senators, Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski, Secretary of State John Kerry said he planned to name a "high-level individual of substantial stature and expertise" to serve as Special Representative for the Arctic Region. He said he hoped to get input from both of them in creating the post and finding the right person.
With the United States set to take over the rotating chairmanship of the eight-nation Arctic Council in 2015, Kerry said in the letters released Friday that he believed it was vital to elevate arctic issues and interests within the State Department.
Begich, a Democrat, and Murkowski, a Republican, have been pressing for an ambassador or envoy to the arctic.
Murkowski has been critical of where the United States stands compared with other nations staking their claims to the region. She sent a letter to the president earlier this week expressing disappointment with the White House's plan for the arctic.
Murkowski said the plan did nothing "to advance our already lagging role in the region."
She noted that Russia and Canada have been aggressive in their plans and investment and that non-arctic nations also are looking at opportunities that come with diminished polar sea ice.