Pol­icy says U.S. will not de­fend Canada from bal­lis­tic mis­sile at­tack: Gen­eral

Kingston Whig-Standard - - NATIONAL - LEE BERTHI­AUME

OT­TAWA — Cur­rent U.S. pol­icy di­rects the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary not to de­fend Canada if it is tar­geted in a bal­lis­tic mis­sile at­tack, says the top Cana­dian of­fi­cer at the North Amer­i­can Aerospace De­fence Com­mand.

“We’re be­ing told in Colorado Springs that the ex­tant U.S. pol­icy is not to de­fend Canada,” said Lt.Gen. Pierre St-Amand, deputy com­man­der of Colorado-based Norad.

“That is the pol­icy that’s stated to us. So that’s the fact that I can bring to the ta­ble.”

St-Amand de­liv­ered that rev­e­la­tion Thurs­day dur­ing an ap­pear­ance be­fore the House of Com­mons de­fence com­mit­tee, which is study­ing the ex­tent to which Canada is ready for an at­tack by North Korea.

The study comes af­ter sev­eral provoca­tive nu­clear and bal­lis­tic mis­sile tests by North Korea, which have stoked fears Canada could end up in the mid­dle of a con­fronta­tion be­tween the U.S. and the so-called her­mit king­dom.

Those tests have also res­ur­rected ques­tions over whether Canada should join the U.S. bal­lis­tic mis­sile de­fence shield, which it fa­mously opted out of in 2005 fol­low­ing a di­vi­sive na­tional de­bate.

St-Amand said Cana­dian and U.S. mil­i­tary per­son­nel at Norad head­quar­ters in Colorado Springs, Colo., work side-by-side de­tect­ing po­ten­tial air­borne threats to North Amer­ica.

But Canada would have no role in de­cid­ing what to do if North Korea or any other coun­try fired a mis­sile at North Amer­ica, he said.

Cana­dian mil­i­tary per­son­nel would in­stead be forced to sit on the side­lines and watch as U.S. of­fi­cials de­cided how to act.

The gen­eral did ac­knowl­edge that U.S. of­fi­cials could ul­ti­mately de­cide to in­ter­vene if a mis­sile was head­ing to­ward Canada, but that the de­ci­sion would likely be made in “the heat of the mo­ment.”

St-Amand’s com­ments ap­peared to con­firm the worst fears of many peo­ple who be­lieve it is time for Canada to join the U.S. bal­lis­tic mis­sile de­fence shield.

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau seemed to all but close the door on join­ing bal­lis­tic mis­sile de­fence last month when he said Canada’s po­si­tion is “not go­ing to be changed any time soon.”

But that has not stopped var­i­ous de­fence ex­perts, re­tired mil­i­tary per­son­nel and even some Lib­eral MPs from call­ing for Canada to em­brace the mis­sile shield to en­sure the coun­try’s pro­tec­tion.

Ear­lier in the day, of­fi­cials from Global Af­fairs Canada and Na­tional De­fence warned the com­mit­tee that it was likely only a mat­ter of time be­fore North Korea would be able to launch an at­tack on North Amer­ica.

But they also said that based on re­cent con­tacts with Py­ongyang, the North Kore­ans do not see Canada as an en­emy, but rather as a po­ten­tial friend that has the ear of the U.S.

Those con­tacts in­clude a meet­ing be­tween For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land and her North Korean coun­ter­part in Au­gust.

“There has been no di­rect threat to Canada,” said Mark Gwozdecky, as­sis­tant deputy min­is­ter of in­ter­na­tional se­cu­rity at Global Af­fairs Canada.

“On the con­trary, in re­cent con­tacts with the North Korean gov­ern­ment ... the indi­ca­tions were that they per­ceived Canada as a peace­ful and in­deed a friendly coun­try.”

Py­ongyang ’s pri­mary goal is self­p­reser­va­tion, the of­fi­cials said, and it un­der­stands the con­se­quences of a war with the United States or any other coun­try.

Yet the of­fi­cials also said the risks of a mis­cal­cu­la­tion are high, and the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment be­lieves Canada has an im­por­tant role in help­ing find a peace­ful so­lu­tion to the sit­u­a­tion.

That in­cludes talks, but also try­ing to ex­ert more pres­sure on the North Korean gov­ern­ment — ei­ther through diplo­matic iso­la­tion or eco­nomic sanc­tions — to give up its nu­clear weapons.

“We must con­vince Py­ongyang that it can achieve its goals through peace­ful diplo­matic means,” Gwozdecky said.

SEAN KIL­PATRICK/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Lt. Gen. Pierre St-Amand speaks to me­dia af­ter ap­pear­ing as a wit­ness at a com­mons na­tional de­fence com­mit­tee in Ot­tawa on Thurs­day. The com­mit­tee is hear­ing wit­nesses on Canada’s abil­i­ties to de­fend it­self and our al­lies in the event of an at­tack by North Korea on the North Amer­i­can con­ti­nent.

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