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.