Saturday, August 05, 2017

Canada's Unenviable Vulnerability

"I think the United States is going to take the necessary action to shoot down an imminent threat coming from any direction."
"They're going to consult with us -- they'll let us know -- but they're going to do it [shoot down any ICBMS flying over Canada to reach the United States]."
"I suspect that there was a window [of opportunity for Canada to join the U.S continental missile defence scheme] when Obama was the president ... when Canadians would have been far more comfortable and accepting of those discussions [joining missile defence]."
Peter MacKay, former Minister of Defence, Canada
This July 28, 2017 picture released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on July 29, 2017 shows North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), Hwasong-14 being launched at an undisclosed place in North Korea. AFP/Getty Images

"This is exactly the same position that Canada was in during the cold War."
Fred Armbruster, executive director, Canadian Civil Defence Museum

"At this point, we've got to be very concerned not that the North Koreans are just going to wake up one morning and decide to incinerate Tacoma or Seattle ... [but] that they're going to use their nukes for blackmail."
Gordon Chang, North Korea commentator



A missile sent off from Tehran on its mission to hit Los Angeles would, before it reached its destination, pass directly over Edmonton and Calgary in the province of Alberta. Just as any missile fired by Pyongyang toward New York City would pass over Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, Canadian territory, Hudson Bay and the nation's capital, Ottawa, in the province of Ontario. Good enough reason for former Minister of Defence under the previous Conservative-led government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, to regret not pressing that Canada sign on to the continental missile defence strategy with its neighbour.

America's concern over North Korea's ongoing technological testing of its nuclear and long-range ballistic missiles translates as Canada's concern for some of the same reasons. Canada might not be the target of Kim Jong-un's threats to destroy its cities, but Canada can certainly consider itself in the realm of collateral damage should such missiles be shot down in self-defence by the United States, over Canadian airspace. Additionally, should a successful flight reach North American airspace but just miss its target, Canada could by default become a target.

The simple fact being that Canada is positioned between the Korean Peninsula and the United States, so missiles launched to hit east of California would of necessity enter Canadian airspace. The Union of Concerned Scientists analyzed last Friday's launch of another ICBM by North Korea, leading them to highlight such a missile's risk to five American cities; Los Angeles, Chicago, Denver, Boston and New York, while "Washington, D.C. may be just out of range", according to researcher David Wright.

Canada's role, outside being a signatory to missile defence would be to warn the Americans should a missile appear over the Northwest Territories. "Canada currently has no say on when, where or whether it should be engaged", reads a 2014 Senate report. Matters have become more complex since the ascension to the presidency of Donald Trump, a man whom Canada would prefer to keep at a safe remove.

During the Cold War, Canada's position with NATO was to be involved in any conceivable attempt by the Soviet Union to send Soviet bombers over the United States. Canada had developed an "interceptor" aircraft for the purpose of flying to the Arctic in record time once alerted, to shoot down any Soviet bombers bound for the U.S. in a mutual defence agreement.

The knowledgeable Mr. Chang feels that for the time being the American East Coast is unlikely to be under threat any time too soon, since the Hwasong-14 is not yet equipped with a re-entry vehicle, and without it any warhead would be smashed by the extreme heat and pressure of entering Earth's atmosphere. Despite which, the state of Hawaii has begun to draft a preparedness plan just in case.

Illustration showing the ‘great circle’ flight path followed by a North Korean missile aimed at Boston. Google Maps/DaftLogic.com

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