Canada needs to look at BMD

“Rocket Man” has done it again. Each time North Korea’s Kim Jong-un improves his missile projection capacity, the potential increases that a missile intended for the United States will accidentally land in Canada. The Trudeau government needs to reconsider ballistic missile defence (BMD) as a shield to protect Canadians against this growing threat.

The government dodged consideration of BMD in its defence policy review last June. It got a perfunctory single line: “Canada’s policy with respect to participation in ballistic missile defence has not changed.” It meant that the policy of the Paul Martin government that was continued under Stephen Harper – a polite decline – remains in effect.

There is a reference in the defence review to discussing with the U.S. government the defence of North America against “all perils.” This should be sufficient cover to review its June decision.

When the Martin government considered BMD in 2005, the answers to three critical questions were deemed inadequate:

  • Does BMD work and how would it protect Canada?
  • How much participation would Canada have in what is essentially a U.S.-managed system?
  • How much would BMD cost?

These are still good questions. The current government should get these answers and share them with Canadians. It should begin by looking at the useful work done by the Senate national defence committee. It has twice examined BMD. Its June, 2014, report unanimously recommended that Canada participate in BMD. The witnesses supporting this recommendation included two former Liberal defence ministers, Bill Graham and David Pratt. More recently, retired general Roméo Dallaire added his support for BMD.

This week’s test is further evidence of North Korea’s improved capacity to project a warhead by ballistic missile across continents. As U.S. President George W. Bush reportedly asked Mr. Harper in 2006, what happens if a North Korean missile aimed at Los Angeles or Seattle winds up heading toward Calgary or Vancouver? Reconsideration was on the Harper government’s agenda had it received a fourth term.

In testimony this fall to parliamentarians, NORAD Deputy Commander Pierre St-Amand, current ranking Canadian at Colorado Springs, said that “U.S. policy is not to defend Canada,” although in the “heat of the moment” the U.S. could do so, “but that would be entirely a U.S. decision.”

But that is no guarantee, since the U.S. system is limited in size and the North Korean ICBM force of uncertain number. Unless we are inside the system – and making a contribution – we have no assurances, even if the U.S. command would wish to protect a Canadian target that is remote from a U.S. asset (think Edmonton or Calgary).

Consideration of Canadian engagement on BMD should cover all possible initiatives beyond the simple positioning of anti-missile sites in Canada.

These would range from a government declaration acknowledging the missile threat to Canada; to allocating additional Canadian Forces resources to the North American Aerospace Defence Command; to equipping the Royal Canadian Navy with appropriate gear to detect missiles; to radar arrays in Canada; to writing a cheque to support research. It would also oblige more attention to security in Canada’s North.

If we decide to participate, we do it because it serves Canadian interests and protects Canadians. We do not do it because we are doing the Americans a favour. On the contrary, the U.S. would be doing us a service, having made the initial, and ongoing, investments.

The U.S. is not asking us to join BMD; it did that in 2005, and we said no.

Asking now to be included would probably result in a “yes,” but it would require the U.S. to make changes to a system in which they have invested billions of dollars. Donald Trump being Donald Trump, there would be a cost to Canada.

Canada has participated in NORAD’s missile warning function for decades. Joining BMD would probably result in NORAD and the U.S. Northern Command taking responsibility for continental BMD defence. Bringing BMD into it would strengthen the binational institution that lies at the heart of the Canada-U.S. defence relationship.

Our European allies and Pacific partners employ BMD. It’s time for Canada to reconsider it. Even if the shield is imperfect, we need this additional insurance policy should errant missiles come our way.

Comments Off on Canada needs to look at BMD

Cyberspace, North Korea and Sony

North Korea is only part of the story about cyberthreats

Colin Robertson The Globe and Mail Tuesday, Dec. 23 2014

What should have been another mindlessly entertaining, forgettable holiday flick is now cyberfuel for a much bigger story.

That the Seth Rogan comedy, The Interview, with its Kim Jong-un assassination sub-plot would unleash the hacking of Sony Pictures; that the studio would cancel the picture; that the FBI would name North Korea as the perpetrator; and that U.S. President Barack Obama would vow to “respond proportionately”; has moved it from Hollywood farce to national security crisis.

The first takeaway is the continuing menace posed by North Korea’s Kim dynasty.

Now into its third generation, this rogue regime is characterized by murder, mayhem and ongoing abuse of human rights. In addition to its cyberarsenal, it possesses nuclear arms. An erratic missile capacity means that it threatens Canada (making the case as to why we need ballistic missile defence).

Defining a “proportional response” to “cybervandalism” will be a challenge for the Obama administration. The hermit kingdom is isolated from global financial and commercial markets and there is already a slew of UN sanctions on it.

The Chinese – providing most of North Korea’s food and energy – are best placed to exercise leverage but they are complicit, in league with Russia, Syria, Iran and North Korea in mutual development of their cybercapacities. Earlier this year, the U.S. Justice Department indicted members of the People’s Liberation Army for corporate cybertheft. These activities included hacking into a Canadian company responsible for protecting North American pipelines and grid systems.

Like dandelions, cyberthreats continue to spread.

Intel Security’s McAfee Labs detect five new threats per second in mobile malware. Malware attacks surged 76 per cent in 2014. McAfee’s 2015 forecast estimates more attacks on mobile devices and the Internet of Things.

McAfee warns of long-term “stealthier information gatherers.” New players will look for new ways to disrupt and steal money. They warn that criminals are beginning to act more like state actors watching and waiting to gather intelligence.

Meanwhile there is continuing debate around technology, threat and privacy.

The revelations from U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden around data harvesting, including the private conversations of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have highlighted privacy concerns about security agencies’ overreach.

In a world of meta-data mining, we all leave a trail of behavioural patterns whenever we go on the Internet.

President Obama rightly described Sony’s decision to pull The Interview as a “mistake.” Bowing to intimidation, Mr. Obama said, is “not who we are.” For enduring satire, Sony executives should watch Charlie Chaplain’s The Great Dictator (1940), parodying Adolf Hitler.

But privacy is different from intimidation. Sony executives’ e-mails are salacious reading but should the media have publicized them? Adam Sorkin, creator of The West Wing, argues that the hackers – “demented and criminal” – do it for a cause, but the press do it “for a nickel.”

Business needs to protect itself and its customers. Credit-card information and intellectual property are main targets but the Canadian Security Intelligence Service warns state-sponsored attackers seek information to give their companies a “competitive edge” over Canadian firms

By design, the Internet is open, dynamic, transparent, interoperable and adaptable to continuous technological improvement. It accesses and ensures the rapid, seamless flow of data and information. Security and identity protection were secondary objectives and this, observed former U.S. deputy defence secretary Bill Lynn, gives attackers a “built-in advantage.”

Apple and Google have recently added encryption features onto their operating systems to make our phones and computers less susceptible to hacking.

They are programmed in such a way as to protect these same companies from decryption, even under court order, to the concern of the FBI and national security agencies.

Next year, the U.S. Congress will debate sun-setting key provisions of the Patriot Act allowing bulk data collection by the National Security Agency. We cherish our privacy but what if there is good reason to believe a terrorist group is planning another attack?

Cybertheft, cyberesponage and cybervandalism are going to get worse. The bad guys: terrorists, criminals and rogue states.

Governments and businesses need to act in tandem. Detecting, tracing and identifying sources requires constant vigilance. Deterrence depends on continuous innovation and collaboration between and amongst business and governments.

The standards of international law in time of war are laid out in the Geneva and Hague conventions addressing, for example, a ban on chemical and biological warfare. Groups like the Global Commission on Internet Governance are helping prepare the ground for international norms on cyberbehaviour .

Keeping cyberspace open and safe for commerce and personal use is vital but it won’t happen without constant effort.

More Related to this Story


Video: Sony hack not ‘an act of war,’ Obama says


Video: North Korea says it did not hack Sony, wants joint probe with U.S.


Video: Sony hack cause for ‘growing concern’: John Baird


Video: More reaction to Sony’s decision to pull ‘The Interview’


Video: Benedict Cumberbatch calls Sony hack ‘tragic’


Video: Stars take to Twitter to express anger over cancellation of ‘The Interview’

Comments Off on Cyberspace, North Korea and Sony

North Korea, China, Canada and BMD

While we weren’t looking, North Korea got a lot more dangerous

The Globe and Mail Monday, Oct. 21 2013

While we focus on Iran and Syria, pay attention to North Korea. It possesses the full arsenal of weapons of mass destruction: chemical, biological and nuclear as well as cyberwarriors.

The Kim dynasty – grandfather Kim Il-sung , father Kim Jong-il vKim Jong-un – is dangerously unpredictable. Tales from the Hermit Kingdom evoke Game of Thrones.

In the purge following Kim Jong-un’s taking power, the former Army Minister was dispatched by a mortar round. The family of Kim’s former girlfriend was forced to watch her execution then trucked off to the gulags.

The regime is also a regional menace.

North Korea was behind the assassination of the mother of current Korean President Park Geun-hye, the bombing in Rangoon that killed many in the South Korean cabinet, the abduction of Japanese citizens, and the sinking, by submarine, of a South Korean frigate .

Systematic human rights violations in North Korea remain “widespread”, reports Amnesty International. The annual report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights observed that the “use of political prison camps, frequent public executions and severe food shortages, coupled with the extreme difficulty of gaining access, make DPRK [North Korea] singularly problematic.”

Unanimous votes of concern in the UN General Assembly and by the Human Rights Council have had no effect. The UN Special Rapporteur has never been allowed to investigate.

Having withdrawn from the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, North Korea developed a nuclear weapon in tandem with a ballistic missile capacity. It recently reactivated a plutonium-producing nuclear reactor in Yongbyon.

North Korean missiles threaten North East Asia and they could potentially reach the west coast of North America. After a third North Korean nuclear test in February, the U.S. will spend a billion dollars to place additional interceptors in Alaska.

North Korea has been an exporter over several decades of conventional arms, nuclear reactor technology and ballistic missiles. Its client list has included Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Pakistan, and Yemen.

All of this activity violates UN Security Council resolutions. The decade-long Six Party talks that involving the two Koreas, Russia, Japan, USA and China and was aimed at curbing North Korea stalled out in 2008.

Recently, the Chinese have made efforts to both revitalize the talks and rein in North Korea. The Chinese, who chair the Six Party talks, hosted an informal session last month in Beijing. Importantly, the Chinese have now imposed export controls on materials that could contribute to North Korean weaponry.

China bears a lot of responsibility for the problem but it also has the leverage to effect change. Leading the effort to denuclearize North Korea would demonstrate that China’s new leadership is becoming more than a passive international participant.

China is far more averse to instability on its border than in the more distant Middle East. It would be more motivated to act (even militarily) on matters relating to a potential conflict with the client state on its front door.

But China will not act by a timetable dictated by the West.

Different from the West, China takes longer to re-assess what is in its best interests and to adjust policy accordingly. We need to remember this and to persist with patient diplomacy.

China is now the sixth largest financial contributor to peacekeeping operations and is currently fielding 1769 peacekeepers ( in contrast to Canada’s 157). Active Chinese involvement in sustaining and reforming international architecture is an essential guarantor of global peace and security.

For Canada, the North Korean threat has a couple of implications.

First, our growing commercial aspirations in Asia underline the need for secure sea lanes to ship our goods. This means getting on with our new warships. It also underlines the value of our submarines as key assets in sustaining maritime order in the Pacific.

Second, changing circumstances mean that we now need comprehensive ballistic missile defence (BMD) insurance.

We are effectively integrated into BMD through NORAD’s Integrated Tactical Warning and Attack Assessment mission. We also benefit from US policy to defend a two hundred mile band beyond the U.S. border in order to protect U.S. cities against fall-out.

But we would not be in the room when the decisions to launch are made. Nor do the current algorithms contain protection for Canadian cities like Calgary or Edmonton. Full participation in BMD would fix this.

We live in a world of changing perils and shifting poles of influence. This puts the premium on diplomacy that encourages all parties’ active participation. It also obliges us to look to our own security with the necessary hard power to back it up.

A former diplomat, Colin Robertson is vice president of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute and a senior advisor to McKenna, Long and Aldridge LLP.

More Related to this Story

Comments Off on North Korea, China, Canada and BMD