North Dakota, North Carolina Form Northern Defense League
In response to increasing security concerns, two of the nation's states have formed the Northern Defense League. Representatives from North Carolina and North Dakota signed the agreement before assembled reporters late last night, after a marathon three-hour negotiating session.
"It seemed like a natural step to take, given our mutual interests," said North Dakota governor John Hoeven after the signing. "We are both threatened by southern neighbors with expansionist tendencies, and we share many cultural similarities." Governor Mike Easley of North Carolina added, "We are confident that this agreement will also send a strong message to terrorists that in our two Northern states, they would be very unwise to try anything."
North Dakota has long expressed fears that South Dakota has not decommissioned all the missile silos it was supposed to in the 1980s and 1990s. North Carolina, in turn, suspects South Carolina of widespread industrial espionage in its high-tech Research Triangle Park, an area near Duke University where several leading biotech firms reside.
"I certainly respect the decision of these states to govern their own destinies," President Bush said when asked about the alliance. "This seems like a forward-thinking way to protect their citizens from terrorists. Maybe other states should consider doing the same thing."
The Northern Defense League is a mutual defense pact, which also calls for the creation of a joint military force numbering no more than 10,000 and a sharing of defense technology. In order to be able to respond to emergencies in both states, the joint force will be based somewhere in Illinois, which is the midpoint between the two states. However, the Illinois governor's office appeared unaware of any plans to locate such a force in the state.
"I think they're out of their minds," said South Dakota governor Mike Rounds. "This can only lead to an arms race in which no one is the winner." He noted that the state had already begun exploring the possibility of forming a Southern Alliance with South Carolina, though progress was slow due to the lack of qualified interpreters with sufficient security clearance.