‘U.S. pol­icy is not to de­fend Canada’ from a mis­sile at­tack

NORAD DEPUTY COM­MAN­DER STUNS COM­MONS COM­MIT­TEE WITH HARSH RE­AL­ITY OF AIR DE­FENCE

The London Free Press - - NP - John IVISON Comment

Politi­cians ap­proach most sub­jects with open mouths, but they are rarely at a loss for words. That’s why the tes­ti­mony at a House of Com­mons de­fence com­mit­tee, spe­cially con­vened to con­sider the thorny prob­lem that is North Korea, was so mem­o­rable. Hon­ourable mem­bers were stumped by the tes­ti­mony of Lt.-Gen. Pierre StA­mand, the Cana­dian who serves as deputy com­man­der of North Amer­i­can Aerospace De­fence Com­mand (NORAD) in Colorado Springs. Con­ser­va­tive MP James Bezan asked St-Amand whether he agreed with the com­mon Cana­dian per­cep­tion that the Amer­i­cans would shoot down an in­com­ing in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile head­ing for a Cana­dian city, even though Canada is not a par­tic­i­pant in the U.S. bal­lis­tic mis­sile de­fence pro­gram. His re­sponse jolted the com­mit­tee mem­bers from their late-sum­mer stu­por. “I’m be­ing told in Colorado Springs that U.S. pol­icy is not to de­fend Canada. That’s a fact I can bring to the ta­ble,” he said. St-Amand con­ceded that in the “heat of the mo­ment,” Amer­i­can com­man­ders might act con­trary to their stated pol­icy, “but that would be en­tirely a U.S. de­ci­sion.” The news was greeted with stunned si­lence. In light of Justin Trudeau’s re­fusal to com­mit to par­tic­i­pa­tion in BMD, Canada is, and looks des­tined to re­main, de­fence­less from bal­lis­tic mis­sile at­tack. New Demo­cratic MP Ran­dall Gar­ri­son said our best de­fence is diplo­macy — and on that front, there was at least some good news. Ap­par­ently, the North Kore­ans quite like us. In ear­lier tes­ti­mony, Stephen Burt, as­sis­tant chief of de­fence in­tel­li­gence at the Cana­dian Forces In­tel­li­gence Com­mand, told MPs that there ap­pears to be no di­rect threat to Canada from the Her­mit King­dom. “On the con­trary when the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser (Daniel Jean) was in Py­ongyang, he was told the North Kore­ans per­ceive Canada as a peace­ful and friendly coun­try. … They per­ceive us not as an en­emy, and even as a po­ten­tial friend,” he said. Mark Gwozdecky, as­sis­tant deputy min­is­ter for In­ter­na­tional Se­cu­rity at Global Af­fairs, said that North Korea is not im­mune to the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity’s per­sis­tent pres­sure that it aban­don its ag­gres­sive pos­ture.

Kim Jong Un has re­fused to take part in talks with any pre­con­di­tions but Gwozdecky said Canada might have a part to play in the “pre-ne­go­ti­at­ing phase.” He pointed out it took more than a decade to strike a deal on nu­clear pro­lif­er­a­tion with Iran. None­the­less, the diplomats, sol­diers and in­tel­li­gence op­er­a­tives tes­ti­fy­ing Thurs­day agreed that while Kim’s in­ten­tions re­main murky he prob­a­bly al­ready has the ca­pa­bil­ity to reach North Amer­ica with a mis­sile. Burt said Kim feels ICBM ca­pa­bil­ity is crit­i­cal to the sur­vival of his regime. “He wants to be able to tar­get North Amer­ica.” He said the regime is mo­ti­vated by a de­sire for sur­vival. “Their rhetoric is colour­ful and their be­hav­iour pe­cu­liar. But they’re no fools and they un­der­stand the con­se­quences.” In­deed, on Thurs­day North Korea fired an­other mis­sile over the north­ern Ja­panese is­land of Hokkaido, just a day af­ter Py­ongyang threat­ened that the four main Ja­panese is­lands “should be sunken into the sea” and re­duce the U.S. to “ashes and dark­ness.” This was the sec­ond time in less than three weeks that North Korea had sent a mis­sile over Ja­pan, and im­me­di­ately sparked an­gry re­ac­tions in Tokyo and Seoul. The mis­sile was launched from the Su­nan air­field just north of Py­ongyang at about 6:30 a.m. Fri­day lo­cal time, South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff said. It flew for 17 min­utes, pass­ing over Hokkaido and land­ing some 1,200 to the east, crash­ing into the Pa­cific Ocean. Even if Kim is not as ir­ra­tional as he ap­pears, he is er­ratic and ap­par­ently has the ca­pa­bil­ity to oblit­er­ate ma­jor North Amer­i­can cities. A ques­tion mark has been raised about the U.S. sys­tem’s abil­ity to in­ter­cept in­com­ing mis­siles. St-Amand was asked by re­porters whether, in his pro­fes­sional opinion, BMD would do what it says on the box. He pointed to tes­ti­mony given re­cently by Gen. Lori Robin­son, com­man­der of U.S. North­ern Com­mand, to the Se­nate’s Armed Ser­vices com­mit­tee. “She tes­ti­fied she has con­fi­dence in her abil­ity to de­fend against BMD threats,” he said. It was no­tice­able that in the tran­script of her tes­ti­mony, Robin­son refers to NORAD’s re­mit to de­fend the U.S. and Canada, yet in her ref­er­ence to the BMD sys­tem, she talked only about de­fend­ing the U.S. To sum up then, a volatile dic­ta­tor has as­sem­bled weapons of mass de­struc­tion that could take out this coun­try’s ma­jor cen­tres of pop­u­la­tion — ei­ther by de­sign or by ac­ci­dent, were mis­siles to fall short of their in­tended U.S. tar­gets. Our only hope is that “King Fatty the Third,” as he’s known in China, is merely capri­cious and not cer­ti­fi­able. Mean­while, there is a mis­sile de­fence sys­tem that one of this coun­try’s most se­nior mil­i­tary com­man­ders is con­fi­dent would in­ter­cept in­com­ing mis­siles. We are not part of it, for rea­sons that have not been ex­plained by the gov­ern­ment. Maybe it’s a sense that we would some­how lose our for­eign-pol­icy in­de­pen­dence. Yet we’ve al­ready fully em­braced con­ti­nen­tal de­fence and even multi­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion on mis­sile de­fence. Lu­di­crously, we are help­ing to a pay for Europe’s mis­sile-de­fence sys­tem through our NATO con­tri­bu­tions, even as we sit ex­posed. Maybe BMD is cost pro­hib­i­tive — St-Amand said he has no idea what the price tag for Cana­dian par­tic­i­pa­tion would be, and no one from the Trudeau gov­ern­ment has out­lined the fis­cal im­pact. But it was just three months ago that global af­fairs min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land told the House of Com­mons that to rely solely on the U.S. pro­tec­tive um­brella would make Canada a client state. “Such a de­pen­dence would not be in Canada’s in­ter­ests,” she said. Par­tic­i­pa­tion in BMD would be costly but it ap­pears we are no longer un­der the pro­tec­tive um­brella. There have been many, many oc­ca­sions when the gov­ern­ment has jus­ti­fied spend­ing be­cause “we can’t af­ford not to.” This would ap­pear to be one of the few times when that state­ment has the virtue of be­ing true.

SEAN KIL­PATRICK / THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Lt.-Gen. Pierre St-Amand ap­pears be­fore a House de­fence com­mit­tee Thurs­day, where his tes­ti­mony stunned the room, telling them it would be up to Amer­i­can com­man­ders whether to pro­tect Canada from a bal­lis­tic mis­sile at­tack.

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