Canada on Thursday slammed a U.S. proposal to deploy troops along their undefended border to help fight the spread of the coronavirus, saying the idea was unnecessary and would damage relations, Reuters writes.
The uncompromising comments were a surprise, since Ottawa has enjoyed smooth relations with U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration over the past 18 months. Last week, the two nations agreed to close the border to non-essential travel to ease the outbreak’s strain on health systems.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday evening that Washington had dropped consideration of the plan, citing an unnamed U.S. official. Reuters could not immediately confirm the report.
Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland had made clear the Liberal government had no time for a plan to send hundreds of troops to the border to boost security.
“Canada is strongly opposed to this U.S. proposal and we have made that opposition very, very clear … this is an entirely unnecessary step which we would view as damaging to our relationship,” Freeland told a news conference.
“The public health situation does not require such action,” she said, noting Washington had yet to take a final decision.
Speaking at the White House, Trump appeared to lack details on the possible troop deployment and said he would look into the matter, Reuters adds.
He said it would be “equal justice” since the U.S. military had deployed to play a support role on the border with Mexico.
A U.S. official familiar with the matter said that U.S. Customs and Border Protection was stressed on the northern border because virtually all patrol officers and border crossing officials were shifted to the southern border, where they are supplemented by a brigade from the 101st Airborne Division, a Marine battalion and National Guard personnel.
The Canada-U.S. border stretches 8,891 km (5,525 miles) and is a crossing point for one of the world’s largest bilateral trading relationships.