Kerry to Be First US Top Diplomat to Visit Antarctica

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John Kerry, an ardent champion of the fight against climate change, will become the first top US diplomat to visit Antarctica, where the world's largest protected marine reserve was just created.

The State Department announced Friday the itinerary for Kerry in what will be one of his last trips as secretary of state before President Barack Obama's administration ends on January 20.

During his November 10-18 world tour, Kerry will visit Antarctica, New Zealand, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco -- for the COP22 climate talks -- and Peru for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, which Obama will also attend.

From November 10 to 12, Kerry will make history as the most senior US official to travel to Antarctica. 

He will visit McMurdo Station, the largest US research station in the region, as well as surrounding areas on Ross Island and the government's Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

His visit comes about two weeks after the October 28 international agreement that created the world's largest marine protected area aimed at preserving the pristine wilderness of Antarctica.

After years of negotiations, a deal was reached by the 25 members of the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) to protect marine fauna and flora in a massive area of the Ross Sea.

Proposed by the United States and New Zealand, the reserve covers more than 598,000 square miles (1.55 million square kilometers) -- roughly the size of Britain, Germany and France combined -- of which 1.12 million square kilometers is a no-fishing zone.

Kerry is a longtime advocate in the fight against global warming: he was a key force in the Paris global climate agreement struck late last year that took effect Friday, and also sponsored an international conference on oceans.

He will be in Marrakesh on November 15-16 at the COP22 meeting, where he will deliver a speech "that highlights the urgency of addressing climate change and the importance of continued ambitious climate action around the world," the State Department said.

The US diplomat will stop in Wellington on November 12 and 13 in his first visit to New Zealand. In Oman on November 14, he will discuss the war in Yemen. The next day, he will travel to Abu Dhabi for talks on regional conflicts, such as Syria.

Kerry will wrap up his journey in Peru, where he is due to attend ministerial meetings of the 21-nation APEC on November 15 and 16 in Lima.

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