International Deal Ends the 'Friendliest of All Wars'

Canada, Denmark will split disputed Arctic island
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 14, 2022 4:01 PM CDT
Canada, Denmark Agree to End 49-Year 'Whiskey War'
The crew of the Danish warship Vedderen perform a flag raising ceremony on Hans Island off northwestern Greenland in this Aug. 13, 2002 photo.   (AP Photo/Polfoto, Vedderen, File)

A long-running—and very polite—dispute between Canada and Denmark over an Arctic island is over. The "Whisky War" started in 1973, when the countries agreed to a boundary in the Nares Strait separating Canada and Greenland, an autonomous part of the Kingdom of Denmark, but the status of Hans Island in the middle of the strait was unclear, the BBC reports. After Canadian troops visited the tiny, uninhabited island in 1984 to plant a flag and bury a bottle of whiskey, a Danish minister replaced the Canadian items with a Danish flag, a bottle of schnapps, and a note saying "Welcome to Danish Island," starting a back-and-forth that continued for decades.

The two countries are both exactly 18 kilometers—11.2 miles—away from the island, allowing them both to claim it under international law. Under the agreement announced Tuesday, Hans Island will be split between the countries along a rift that stretches from north to south, giving Denmark its first land border with Canada, the CBC reports. The deal to divide it along the natural feature gives Denmark a slightly larger share of the 0.5-square-mile island. Officials say the two countries decided to finally settle the dispute to give the world an example of nations resolving their issues peacefully. Canada and Denmark have been cooperating closely in assisting Ukraine.

"It was the friendliest of all wars," said Mélanie Joly, the Canadian foreign minister, per the New York Times. "But when you look at what’s going on in the world right now, particularly since the invasion by Russia of Ukraine, we really wanted to give more momentum and renew our energies to make sure that we would find a solution." The island is known as Tartupaluk to Inuit people on both sides of the border. They were involved in the negotiations and authorities say their hunting and fishing rights will not be affected. (More Canada stories.)

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