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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 July 2007, 10:57 GMT 11:57 UK
Canada 'to reclaim Arctic waters'
By Ian Gunn
BBC News, Vancouver

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Stephen Harper says it is time to re-assert a claim to the north
Canada has announced plans for six naval patrol vessels and a deep-water port in the north to assert its claim to territorial waters in the Arctic.

Other countries, including the US, say the waters are international territory.

The $3bn (1.5bn) announcement at Canada's Pacific naval base comes in part to fulfil an election promise.

Ottawa also sees economic potential in protecting its claim to the Arctic, as the area is thought to be rich in natural resources.

'Lucrative'

Since the end of the Cold War, Canada's modest military and coast guard have only rarely patrolled its northern coast line. Now Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the time has come to re-assert Canada's claim to the north.

Arctic landscape in Nunavut, Canada
Oil, gas and diamonds are thought to lie beneath the Arctic waters
At a dockside ceremony complete with brass bands, fluttering flags and sharp white uniforms, the prime minister promised to build at least six new patrol ships with ice-breaking hulls to extend his country's presence into the Arctic Ocean.

That presence, Ottawa hopes, will remind other countries - including the US - of Canada's claim to the waters off its northern coast.

The claim could also have serious economic implications. Natural resources including oil, gas and diamonds are thought to lurk - perhaps in abundance - under the Arctic ice.

And then there is the North-West Passage - the northern shipping route between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans that European explorers sought for centuries.

With a warming climate, the route may just become viable and lucrative.

A deciding factor in the territorial disputes may be whether Canadians ever actually venture into the areas in question. And so the time has come, Ottawa says, to make sure that they do.


SEE ALSO
New Canadian PM rebuffs US envoy
27 Jan 06 |  Americas
The Arctic's new gold rush
25 Oct 05 |  Business
Country profile: Canada
25 May 07 |  Country profiles
Profile: Stephen Harper
24 Jan 06 |  Americas

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