Friday, July 13, 2007

Canada's Harper Talks Tough over the Northwest Passage

Svalbard class reinforced northern patrol vessel, rumored to be Canadian choice for it's proposed Arctic Patrol Fleet.The Northwest Passage, once a disappointing vision, is now a commercially viable passage for part of the year - and it's a straight shot from Europe to the Pacific Rim.

Aside from that fairly impressive silver lining to the cloud of Global Warming, the retreat of the ice is revealing all kinds of newly available resources, from fishing stocks to energy reserves, and Canada's Steven Harper is staking a claim on it. - post by graphictruth

Canada Tightens Grip on Disputed Arctic - The Huffington Post Annotated

TORONTO — Canada announced plans Monday to increase its Arctic military presence in an effort to assert sovereignty over the Northwest Passage _ a potentially oil-rich region the United States claims is international territory.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said six to eight patrol ships will guard what he says are Canadian waters. A deep water port will also be built in a region the U.S. Geological Survey estimates has as much as 25 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and gas.

"Canada has a choice when it comes to defending our sovereignty over the Arctic. We either use it or lose it. And make no mistake, this government intends to use it," Harper said. "It is no exaggeration to say that the need to assert our sovereignty and protect our territorial integrity in the North on our terms have never been more urgent."

U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins has criticized Harper's promise to defend the Arctic, claiming the Northwest Passage as "neutral waters." But Wilkins declined to comment on Monday, said U.S. Embassy spokesman James Foster.

...

Patrol ships with steel-reinforced hulls will be able to go through ice a foot thick and will be armed and equipped with helicopter landing pads to accommodate new helicopters being purchased by the Canadian military.

Harper said the government opted for a more versatile fleet than heavy icebreakers because there is little need to patrol the area during the winter when ice prohibits shipping through the route.

Helicopter equipped patrol craft have a rather pointed antisubmarine and anti-commerce capability. The power to destroy is the power to tax and regulate and Canada clearly is making that statement with this and it's planned new deep-water arctic port.

One immense concern for Canada would be heavy tanker traffic, with the attendant environmental risks and resource impacts, which could be hugely magnified within the strait, and access to new fisheries could make a critical difference to the Canadian fishing industry.

Some claim international law is not on Canada's side in this issue, but I've noticed of late that International law tends to be on the side that has the ability and willingness to enforce their interpretation.

And that's yet another unfortunate precedent set by the Bush White House; essentially other nations the right to interpret or ignore international law when it would be against their interests.

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