The Problem With Canada’s Ballistic Missile Defence Debate

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October 4, 2017
Andrea Berger and Matt Korda

The following is an excerpt from The Canadian International Council

In September, the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence considered “Canada’s abilities to defend itself…in the event of an attack by North Korea.” It spent a surprising amount of time discussing potential Canadian involvement in US ballistic missile defence programs. Just as surprising is the wider emerging narrative that Canadian participation is now “common sense”. It is far from it.

Canada’s conversation over North Korea policy should not be about missile defence. The current Korean crisis demands a broader conversation amongst the US and its allies about sanctions policy, dialogue efforts, cyber threats, and human rights promotion – a conversation in which Canada has a role.

Moreover, Canada’s missile defence discussion should not be about North Korea. Pyongyang is not the only adversary capable of targeting North America with ballistic missiles. And the idea that its long-range missiles should lead Canada to join in US Ground-based Midcourse Defence (GMD) – the system designed to intercept intercontinental ballistic missiles fired from across the Pacific – is perplexing.

Firstly, Canada is not on Pyongyang’s nuclear target list, as suggested during the Parliamentary hearings. North Korean state media has never mentioned Canada in security terms — except to call us “peaceful” and “friendly”. North Korea’s foreign minister recently reaffirmed that they have no intention “to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against the countries that do not join in US military actions” on North Korea. Analysts have a good sense of what the country’s targets actually are; Pyongyang believes selective transparency enhances deterrence, and shows us “maps of death” with some frequency. One way to put Canada on nuclear target lists, however, would be to station important ballistic missile defence assets here.

Read the full article at The Canadian International Council

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