It's easy to think of Alaska as isolated -- a far-flung state, surrounded by mountains, ice and water, disconnected from the rest of the country. But our geographic location at the crossroads of North America and Asia and our position as the nation's only Arctic state are among our greatest assets.
Alaska is already a major transportation hub for goods being flown from the United States and Asia. As changes in the Arctic make shipping through the Northwest Passage and other Arctic routes possible, Alaska's role as a transportation leader will only grow.
The opening of the Arctic also holds great promise for resource development and scientific research, which is why I've been actively working to highlight the importance of the Arctic in the eyes of Washington, D.C.
With increased activity comes a need for new infrastructure, investment and a greater presence in the region. I am encouraged that the U.S. Coast Guard and Navy are doing an extensive analysis of what needs to be done to expand their presence in Alaska.
It's important that the United States take action now to claim its rightful jurisdiction over the Arctic and the resources it contains. Other nations have already made their own claims. That's why I support ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty to ensure we maintain a strong presence in the region.
Alaska has other tremendous geographical advantages when it comes to foreign policy and international trade. Three of our four largest trading partners are in Asia, where Alaska has great name recognition as a tourist destination and for the quality seafood, mineral, timber and agricultural products we export. Developing and maintaining strong relationships with Asia is critical to the our economic success.
While Alaska has significant trading partners in Asia, other foreign policy concerns are centered there as well. We're all too aware of the potential dangers posed by North Korea. This is why I strongly support a National Missile Defense system based in Alaska. I also believe that negotiations with North Korea must take place within the framework of the six-party talks. A unified voice by North Korea's neighbors, its most important trading partners and its sources of economic and financial assistance sends a strong message to Pyongyang that they cannot threaten international peace.
A little further from home, but perhaps a more direct link for many of us, the surge of U.S. troops first in Iraq and now Afghanistan has worked to reduce violence and allow more domestic troops in those countries to be trained and placed in the field. There's a sense within both countries that their governments are destined to succeed. While I support the decision to place more troops on the ground, I don't believe a political timeline should be set for when our troops will be withdrawn. That's a decision that should be determined by the situation, and the commanders, on the ground. In my trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan this January, the announcement of a July 2011 drawdown date left Afghani leaders with a trust deficit in the United States. They are not sure if the United States will finish the job. That uncertainty is helping the Taliban and al-Qaeda in their recruiting efforts.
While foreign policy is often viewed from a national perspective, Alaska is at the forefront of Arctic-related activity and is directly impacted by events around the world. I will continue to work with the White House and my colleagues in Congress to ensure that Alaska's international perspective is fully taken into account.