DEC 16, 2000



      The Straits Times, Singapore

Canadian security melts with Arctic ice

Nations will try to use its waterways to shorten Asia-Europe trips, and tap the mineral and fresh water resources of the area, says top military officer

By R. Senthilnathan

THE Canadian military fears that global warming will pose a threat to the country's sovereignty as melting ice attracts the attention of nations eyeing the deep Arctic waterways for shorter shipping times between Asia and Europe, and the rich mineral and fresh water resources in the region.

Canada's second-most senior military officer, Lt-General Ray Henault, said the military took the threat posed to national sovereignty due to global warming 'very seriously'.

In a series of recent secret reports, senior Canadian military officers have said that as melting ice enables commercial shipping in the next 10-50 years, many nations may be tempted to test Canadian strength to protect the Arctic areas over which the world's second largest country claims sovereignty.

And as if to give teeth to the military fears, the Canadian media, which received some of the reports under the country's access to information law, have come up with reports of recent incursions of foreign vessels in Canadian Arctic waters.

In August last year, a Chinese state-owned research ship entered the Canadian waters off the Northwest Territories without permission.

The Canadians became aware of the ship's presence only when it asked for help after running into ice.

Then, a month later, a submarine of unidentified origin was detected near Baffin Islands, close to Greenland.

The recent move by Russia to shift some of its long-range, nuclear capable Tu-95 bombers to its northern bases has also rattled the nerves of Canadians, who have shifted some of their own aircraft to their northern bases to keep a tab on Russian moves.

According to recent reports, the so-called multi-year ice - the thick, hard ice that covers most of the Arctic - has shrunk by 14 per cent over the past 20 years.

At the present melting rate, the Arctic ice would vanish in the next 50 years.

It is not only Canada's sovereignty over the Arctic waterways that would be threatened, the military believes that the rich minerals and fresh water resources may also attract foreign attention.

Furthermore, the area is also rich in fresh water, which is becoming a scarce resource and over which nations are expected to squabble in the coming decades.

One Canadian military document says that foreign nations may send in their submarines to challenge Canada's ownership of significant Arctic waters.

The Canadian navy has already noted that submarine buying or building activity is increasing in South-east and East Asia, and very soon countries like Taiwan are to own their first submarines.

However, Canada's first submarines with the ability to patrol under ice would not be ready until 2010.

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