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Chile to build world’s closest base to South Pole


07:42 AM January 18th, 2013

January 18th, 2013 07:42 AM

SANTIAGO—Chile is planning a new research base in Antarctica that will be the closest outpost to the South Pole of any ever built on the frozen continent, President Sebastian Pinera announced.

The new base will be situated near US and Chinese bases on Union Glacier, and will be Chile’s fifth in Antarctica, as Santiago tries to strengthen its presence there, the Chilean leader said.

“We are taking a step forward to strengthen the claim and commitment that Chile has with Antarctica,” Pinera said in a statement late Wednesday.

Pinera traveled this week to the site of the new base, accompanied by his Foreign Minister Alfredo Moreno and Defense Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter.

He said Chile has “historical” rights in Antarctica that date back to “colonial times,” as well as geographic claims based on proximity.

Chile “has always been present in Antarctica with its armed forces and its scientific research institutes,” Pinera said.

The government hopes to turn the Chilean cities of Punta Arenas and Puerto Williams into a gateway to the Antarctic continent, which is located about six hours from Chilean territory by plane or three days away by ship.

The Chilean government hopes to “strengthen tourism and scientific research in the Antarctic continent,” which has unequaled reserves of fresh water and breathtaking landscapes, Pinera added.

About 30 countries, all members of the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, operate research bases in Antarctica.

About 50 nations, including Chile, are signatories to the pact, which entered into force in 1961 and which aims to reduce the likelihood of confrontations over territorial disputes there.

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