Pompeo says Canadian claim to Northwest Passage is ‘illegitimate’

OTTAWA — Canada’s claim over the Northwest Passage is “illegitimate,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday in a major speech to the Arctic Council that Canadian experts called both provocative and frequently inaccurate.

Pompeo offered his characterization during a wide-ranging speech in Finland in which he also warned against China’s increased Arctic presence, saying it threatens North American security and could be harmful to the environment.

Pompeo reiterated long-held concerns about Russia’s military build-up in the Arctic and how that, too, is viewed as being counter to American security interests.

“No one denies Russia has significant Arctic interests,” Pompeo said in a transcript of remarks circulated by the U.S. State Department. “We recognize that Russia is not the only nation making illegitimate claims. The U.S. has a long-contested feud with Canada over sovereign claims through the Northwest Passage.”

Pompeo’s branding of a longtime disagreement on Arctic policy between the Canada and the U.S. is a “stunning rebuke” of the 1988 Arctic Co-operation agreement between the two countries, said Fen Hampson, the head of the international-security program at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo, Ont.

“It underscores the ‘upset-every-applecart’ approach by the Trump administration to Canada-U.S. relations,” said Hampson, the author of a recent book on the foreign policy of former prime minister Brian Mulroney.

The routes between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans run between Canadian islands but the two countries disagree about whether that makes them internal Canadian waters or international waters that have Canadian territory nearby. The disagreement matters more now that melting Arctic sea ice means the Northwest Passage is getting closer to being a viable commercial shipping route.

The agreement reached by Mulroney and then-president Ronald Reagan allows the U.S. to designate the Northwest Passage as an international waterway while allowing Canada to say that it is a part of Canadian sovereign territory.

The treaty recognizes the “close and friendly relations between their two countries, the uniqueness of ice-covered maritime areas, the opportunity to increase their knowledge of the marine environment of the Arctic through research conducted during icebreaker voyages, and their shared interest in safe, effective icebreaker navigation off their Arctic coasts.”

The Canadian government pointed to that agreement in responding to Pompeo’s speech.

“Canada and the U.S. have differing views regarding the status of the Northwest Passage under international law,” said Guillaume Berube, a spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs. “The situation is well managed, including through the 1988 Arctic Co-operation Agreement, according to which the U.S. government seeks Canada’s consent for its icebreakers to navigate the waterways. Canada remains committed to exercising the full extent of its rights and sovereignty over its territory and its Arctic waters, including the various waterways commonly referred to as the Northwest Passage. Those waterways are part of the internal waters of Canada.”

Hampson said the treaty was a “neighbourly understanding to agree to disagree about Canada’s territorial claims over the Northwest Passage, whereby the U.S. would seek Canada’s permission about transit through these straits.”

There is little that Canada can do if the U.S. sends a ship through the passage without prior notification, he said.

“We can remind them, though, that if they are worried about a growing Chinese and Russian presence in the North and aspirations to create a circumpolar Silk Road, they might want to work more closely with their NORAD partner and refrain from challenging our sovereignty,” said Hampson.

“This isn’t the time to be throwing snowballs.”

Just Posted

Red Deer stamp-collecting event a hit, local club expected to start in fall

Postage stamp-loving Red Deerians can expect to have a place to gather… Continue reading

Red Deer woman one of three arrested by Sundre RCMP

The 19-year-old had numerous arrest warrants out of various jurisdictions

Businessman and volunteer named 2019 Citizen of the Year

John Donald’s parents and sister were each honoured previously

School leader named Red Deer Young Citizen of the Year

Leading by example at Hunting Hills High School

Suspects shot at pursuing police during crime spree

No police officers were injured in May 17 shooting

WATCH: Sunnybrook Farm Museum in Red Deer welcomes spring

Sunnybrook Farm Museum is celebrating spring in Red Deer. On Saturday, the… Continue reading

Cast your votes for the Best of Red Deer

Nominations for the Best of Red Deer Readers’ Choice Awards are officially… Continue reading

Stan Lee’s former manager arrested on elder abuse charges

LOS ANGELES — A former business manager of Stan Lee has been… Continue reading

BCUC sets out process for gas and diesel price inquiry, set to wrap Aug. 30

VANCOUVER — The British Columbia Utilities Commission says it has set out… Continue reading

2 hikers rescued after darkness sets in on trail near Cypress Mountain

North Shore Rescue says it rescued two hikers caught in the darkness… Continue reading

Canada beats Czech Republic to advance to gold-medal game at world championship

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Canada’s latest win at the world hockey championship left… Continue reading

Rimouski forward Lafreniere, Prince Albert goaltender Scott earn CHL awards

HALIFAX — Rimouski Oceanic star Alexis Lafreniere has been named the Canadian… Continue reading

10 wounded as gunmen open fire outside New Jersey bar

TRENTON, N.J. — Authorities say at least two gunmen fired into a… Continue reading

Mississippi rep accused of punching wife issues statement

JACKSON, Miss. — A Mississippi lawmaker accused of recently punching his wife… Continue reading

Most Read