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Canada, U.S. frosty over N.W. Passage

OTTAWA, April 4 (UPI) -- Global warming is leading to chilled relations between Canada and the United States over accessibility to the thawing Northwest Passage.

John Falkingham, chief of ice forecasting for the Canadian Ice Service, said satellite photos show the ice cover in the Arctic Ocean had been shrinking by about 3-4 percent each decade, but the melt has accelerated to a rate of about 8 percent per decade since 2000.

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While the United States calls the passage an international strait that is open to all, Canada claims control because it considers the passage an internal waterway, like the Mississippi River, USA Today reported.

A 12,600-nautical-mile trip from Europe to Asia via the Panama Canal would only be 7,900 nautical miles using the Northwest Passage, which would save millions of dollars in shipping costs over time.

In January, David Wilkins, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, angered Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a speech.

"We don't recognize Canada's claims to the waters," Wilkins said.

The next day at a news conference, Harper said, "It is the Canadian people we get our mandate from, not the ambassador from the United States."

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