Canada and North Korea: How to Meet the Threat?


2017-08-29 By Danny Lam

Canada is a participant in the Korean War under UN Security Council Resolution 84.   The war is paused by an Armistice in 1953 but never formally ended with a peace treaty between belligerents.   Since then, the Republic of Korea (South) have developed into the 11th largest in the world, just after Canada.

The Democratic Republic of Korea (North), have developed into a heavily armed regime with an arsenal that within two years, will be able to credibly conduct thermonuclear missile strikes anywhere in the world including Ottawa, Canada.

Canadas remain technically at war with DPRK today.

Defending Canada and Canadians against existential threats is the duty of any Canadian Government. Existential threats are not just limited to threats to existence (e.g. annihilation with nuclear weapons), but “permanently change another group’s values and the way it governs itself against the latter’s will”. (Phil Waller, 2016)

DPRK’s thermonuclear ICBM arsenal capability is necessary but not sufficient to be an existential threat. Few Canadians would regard (e.g. U.K. and France’s) nuclear missile arsenal to be a threat to Canada.

What is different about DPRK’s nuclear arsenal is their motivations and intentions: What are they going to, or likely to do with their nuclear arsenal?

If DPRK is to become a conservative “establishment” nuclear weapons power that used their arsenal as a deterrent against regime change, that leads to one set of strategies for dealing with DPRK.

On the other hand, if DPRK’s motives and intentions are not defensive, but have greater ambitions that include the offensive use of their nuclear arsenal, it would, a) represent a fundamental break from all first nuclear age power; b) require very different strategies for Canada to defend against this existential threat.

Existential threats from North Korea against Canada, accordingly, do not necessarily require the use of nuclear weapons. It can involve the threat of using nuclear weapons that compelled Canada to pay tribute, or protection money, pay indemnities from the Korean war or compensations for sanctions against DPRK, or whatever injustice the North Korean mind can conjure.

DPRK demanded US$75 trillion in compensation or war indemnities from the US alone for the Korean war and damages from sanctions to 2006. If Canada is assessed a proportionate share, that will be in the range of US$ trillions.

Should North Korea compelled Canada with the threat of nuclear annihilation to pay tribute or indemnities of this magnitude, it would fundamentally alter Canadian values and how Canadians govern ourselves.

If allowed to become institutionalized, DPRK modus operandi will be copied by other powers and alter the liberal international order upon which Canadian prosperity depend.

Thus, it is fair to say that DPRK’s motives for their nuclear ICBM arsenal, when confirmed to be financial and economically motivated, represent a fundamental break in post war international norms. DPRK is about war for profit.

That is not just an existential threat to Canada, but to the post war liberal international order that the Trudeau regime appear to be so proud of participating in.

Canadian defense policy against North Korea must be cognizant of both the rapid growth / development of the DPRK nuclear ICBM threat, but also their motives and posture. DPRK have adopted an offensive, or surprise first strike posture with their nuclear ICBM arsenal that makes it an urgent issue for Canada to field a credible defense by all means necessary within a year or two, before DPRK can credibly threaten Canada and the allies with a thermonuclear ICBM force.

A credible existential threat to Canada from DPRK nuclear missiles by 2020 or sooner leaves little time and few options for Canada.  

Canada is not a partner in the US missile defense system. NORAD does not include ballistic missile defense in its mandate.

Canada cannot count on NATO members’ assistance (including USA) under Article 5 as Canada have not met Article 3 obligations for self-defense.

Canadians are deluded if they think the US Missile Defense system is like Girl Guides or Boy Scouts that they can join at will.  The option to join the US missile defense system is moot as becoming a partner (via the existing formal process) is a long, drawn out process even if Canada appropriated substantial funds up front, decided to join today and the US MDA agreed immediately.   Membership in the US missile defense would not deliver a usable Canadian capability for years — if that.

What about procuring a missile defense system?

In order to meet the DPRK threat by 2020 or sooner, Canadians have no time for the usual multi decade debate, politics, and slow motion defense procurement that have bedeviled Canadian DND and Public Services and Procurement in almost every recent major defense program including the Canadian Surface Combatants, Fighter Aircraft Replacement, Maritime Helicopters, etc.

Moreover, there is zero chance that any major government, let alone supplier of state-of-the-art missile defense systems will entertain standard Canadian procurement terms like 100% offsets (Industrial and Technological Benefits), or demands for proprietary information including intellectual property and software source code.

Even the smoothest, most expedited traditional procurement in recent Canadian history would not be sufficient.  An expedited process that require elimination or waiver of many extant Canadian defense and public procurement rules is a must if Canada is to procure a missile defense capability expeditiously.

Suppose Canadian Parliament achieved an all-party consensus and unanimously voted to fund and urgently procure a missile defense system including waiving many rules?

It is not clear that vendors will have the available capacity to deliver in the short term given existing factory capacity and orders.

Additional orders from allies will further constrain manufacturers.

US-DoD will likely veto any foreign orders that compete with DoD priorities without a political decision by the Trump Administration and Congress.

Canada is in a weak position to secure scarce defense resources from the Trump Administration for missile defense for many reasons. Canada has virtually no relationship with Japan and South Korea in missile defense.

Missile defense in depth begins with not just US systems like the Space Based Infra Red (SBIR) system and other assets, but also on Japanese and South Korean ISR that give early warning of missile launches.   This will likely extend in the future to engaging missiles during the boost phase or mid-course from forward deployed assets and allies working close together to defeat missiles at the earliest opportunity.

By the time intercepts default to using scarce Ground Based Missile Defense Missiles, the risk of a successful strike rises sharply.

On what basis can Canada have a claim to US allies like South Korea and Japan sharing data, let alone the thought of using up one of their valuable interceptors to shoot down an ICBM heading for a Canadian target?

Joining the US missile defense in no way address the problem of Canada having no claims on allied defense capabilities for the benefit of Canada unless Canada is prepared to offer them a quid quo pro.

Do Canadian politicians understand this?

Japan and S. Korea certainly do.

Beyond negotiating a claim on allied assets for missile defense, it is technically impossible to field a missile defense alone (defeating arrows) without participating in an allied campaign to eliminate the archers.

That would require Canadians commit to an expeditionary capability to the Korean peninsula — something few Canadian leaders have contemplated or have prepared the Canadian public for.

The flippant and lackadaisical attitude Canada have demonstrated to key US allies security concerns is illustrated by Canada’s disregard and ignorance of DPRK threats — barely warranted a mention in the Canadian defense and foreign policy unveiled in June, 2017 that failed to recognize the existential threat to Canada from DPRK.

Both documents were obsolete before they were made public.

On a majority of occasions in recent years, Canada could not even be bothered to issue a statement as DPRK undertook provocative acts like nuclear or missile tests that directly threatened the security of Canada, USA, Japan and S. Korea.

Nor did as provocative an act as a missile test coinciding with a NATO meeting in May 2017 awaken Canada to the threat.

It took until August 11, 2017 for that Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland to call North Korea “A Grave Threat” to the World. Freeland then pledged support to the US (but not other allies) verbally without any specifics or deliverables.

Canada did not bother to protest the missile barrage test of August 25, 2017 though Global Affairs found time to announce Minister Freeland’s meeting about NAFTA in Montreal.

An oversight that might also afflict verbal commitments to the US?

This Canadian attitude of being disconnected from Northeast Asian security concerns is reflected in defense policy. Canada do not regularly participated in major regional military exercises (except RIMPAC) with Japan (except PASSEX) or S. Korea (except 15 troops to ULCHI Freedom Guardian).

When this is compared to Canada’s deployment to EU and Ukraine, it is understandable that allies regard Canada as a not so credible partner in the region.

There is still time to turn this around, beginning with building an all-party consensus in the Parliament of Canada that North Korea’s nuclear arsenal and war aims is an existential threat to Canada, and then, begin to consider what can be done in time to meet the threat.

Future articles will explore how Canada can field a credible defense against DPRK quickly and affordably.

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