Ballistic Missile Defence under review

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Excerpted from Michael Woods in the Ottawa Citizen April 22, 2013

U.S. reportedly asks Canada to join missile shield

OTTAWA — The United States has reportedly asked Canada to join an anti-ballistic missile shield, resurrecting a potentially thorny political issue in this country.

The request, as reported Sunday by CTV, comes amid heightened concerns over North Korea, which has been levelling bellicose rhetoric at the United States of late…

A spokesman for Defence Minister Peter MacKay would neither confirm nor deny the report that the U.S. had approached Canada about participating in a missile-defence shield.

“Canada has declined to participate in ballistic missile defence in the past. We constantly review the security situation internationally,” spokesman Jay Paxton said in an email to Postmedia News on Sunday.

Appearing on CTV’s Question Period on Sunday, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews also declined to confirm or deny the report.

“I think we need to have a broader discussion about that, and I’m not prepared to venture an opinion at this time,” he said.

“What I can say is co-operation with our allies, especially in relation to a terrorism-related threat, is absolutely essential to keeping Canadians safe.”

In 2005, Paul Martin’s Liberal government declined to join the United States’ missile defence program, prompting ire from the Bush administration.

Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat, said it’s now in Canada’s best interests to participate in an anti-ballistic missile shield with its southern counterpart, in light of changing global security considerations and improved technology.

“To me, it’s an insurance policy,” said Robertson, vice-president and senior research fellow at the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute. “You hope you never have to use it, but you want to be sure that you’re protected.”

Robertson, who is also a distinguished senior fellow at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, said although North Korea’s actions have been garnering attention, the larger long-term threat could come from Iran, whose nuclear program is continuing despite strict international sanctions.

“The Americans are reasonably comfortable that they have the capacity to head off anything (from North Korea),” he said. “But if something came over the pole from Iran, that’s a different dimension, and that would also potentially be a more serious threat to Canada.”

NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar, speaking on CTV, said Canada should “not act as if we’re going to have missiles sent at us tomorrow” and instead should press China, North Korea’s foremost ally, to pressure the isolated dictatorship into changing course.

“In 2005, it was not just Paul Martin that said no. Canadians overwhelmingly said no to this approach,” he said.