Joining ballistic missile defence makes sense
The world is already adjusting to the news of North Korea’s latest and most powerful nuclear test. And not just with condemnation and calls for more sanctions. But with action.
The day after the Sept. 4 launch of what the rogue state claims is its first ever hydrogen bomb, South Korea gave the all-clear to finalize the deployment of THAAD, a U.S. antimissile defence system.
The Economist reports American utilities are already placing greater focus on protecting the electrical grid after North Korean leader Kim Jongun’s launch came with a statement threatening to launch an electromagnetic pulse attack that could shut off all power for months.
These are overdue issues. But if this latest launch is the kick in the pants needed to get action, so be it.
We can’t say the same for one of Canada’s national security omissions, at least not yet. Back in 2005, the Paul Martin government announced we wouldn’t be participating in a proposed ballistic missile defence (BMD) program.
At the time there was a lot of sentiment against it. There was a reticence to be seen going along with then U.S. president George W. Bush. And there were big worries that this would lead to a new arms race.
But a lot has changed since then. First of all, fears of proliferation have proven unfounded. While the U.S. went ahead with BMD, it continued to sign disarmament agreements with Russia. Numbers went down, not up.
More to the point though, North Korea hadn’t even conducted their first nuclear test. That came a year after we took a pass on BMD. Now, it has done five more tests and has intercontinental ballistic missiles that can hit Canada.
No matter how much you think diplomacy and sanctions are the preferred route — as President Donald Trump, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and others agree on — this doesn’t change the fact that in the interim North Korea could launch an attack that would need to be defended against.
Right now, Canada is at the mercy of the United States for this protection.
“Through NORAD, we currently share information in early warning and attack assessment with the U.S.A.,” former diplomat Colin Robertson said in a testimony to a Senate committee in 2014, urging us to think more about BMD. “But when it comes time to make the critical launch decisions, our officials literally have to leave the room.”
This means there’s no one there whose sole job is to protect the Canadian homeland. Sure, the U.S. has our back. But it’ll be understandably thinking about its own needs first and foremost in an emergency.
Signing on to BMD changes that, giving us a place at the table.
The Conservatives never made BMD an issue during the Harper years, when the threat assessments were much milder. That’s beginning to change.
A variety of voices have sounded the alarm in the past week, including foreign affairs critic Erin O’Toole, former chief of the defence staff Tom Lawson and former general and Liberal Sen. Romeo Dallaire. Former defence minister Peter MacKay has said he regrets not advancing the file.
When you take a look at a map showing the reach of North Korea’s arsenal and realize Canada’s within range, signing up for BMD now seems like common sense.
Trudeau’s statement following the North’s latest launch said Canada will work with the U.S. “to counter the North Korean threat.” He didn’t specify what exactly we’d be doing. But there’s one option that’s now on the table right in from of him.