Canada needs to be prepared for Missile Defense
Time for Canada’s Global Affairs and Defence Minister to dust off cabinet documents on Missile Defense as the problem is not going away in North Korea, and the Kim Jong-un regime’s missile and nuclear technology is improving at a dangerous rate.
Last night, North Korea, test-fired four ballistic missiles, as of yet unidentified, to with 200 kilometers of the Japanese coast. The unidentified missiles flew 620 miles before touching down in the Sea of Japan or almost 1000 kilometers. This series of launches comes less than a month after North Korea test-fired the KN-11 Pukguksong-2 Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) that uses solid rocket fuel which allows for faster fueling before launch and less detection time. As a point, this followed two nuclear tests and 24 Ballistic Missile launches by North Korea last year. It would be reasonable to assume that the four missiles tested were KN-11 Pukguksong-2 IRBM to follow-up on the successful test last month. It is unlikely that they were Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), but North Korea continues to make strides in its goal to develop a weapon that can reach vast stretches of the continental US.
The US State Department warned that it "strongly condemns" the test-firing of four missiles by North Korea on Sunday, and labeled it a violation of UN Security Council resolutions. The launches come as the US and South Korea conduct their annual joint-military exercises in the region. The exercises have run at- this-time of year for almost forty-years, and North Korea has used the occasion in the past, to test-fire missiles as a show of force. But the test-firing of missiles might also be in response to meetings held in China last week that did not go well for the North Korean regime. In response to the launches of four missiles, China urged North Korean to show restraint. But this launch also comes as the Chinese Communist Party’s leadership gathers in Beijing for the National People’s Congress. Last September, when China was hosting the G20 in Hangzhou, North Korea test-fired three missiles into the Sea of Japan.
Not knowing the type or types of missiles fired makes drawing too many conclusions from the tests a bit edgy. But it is crystal clear, that the North Korea program is advancing in terms of how fast it produces missiles, deploys them, and how they are geared to avoid detection and to evade defenses. Their technology has steadily and dramatically improved. The test-firing of several missiles at the same time could be used to simulate saturation-style missile attacks on a target such as Japan with its missile defenses. Keeping in mind, that the North Koreans similarly test-fired three missiles in September. It is not clear how capable the North Koreans are in this regard, but the testing of the missiles does allow the North Korean’s, as well as anyone else watching, to observer an opponent(s)’s air defenses as they ‘light-up,’ gives some ability to map them, and gives insight into response times, all of which are useful in warfighting scenarios.
The reaction of the Trump administration is likely going to hinge on what type of Ballistic Missiles were test-fired and what American intelligence deems as the purpose of the North Korea actions. If it is revealed that the weapon is more sinister or that the North Korean motive for provocation was grave, then it will be more likely, that we see a forceful reaction from President, Donald J. Trump, and Defense Secretary, Jim Mattis. Things should come together fairly-quickly as US, South Korean, and Japanese intelligence likely know now what was test-fired, and are pulling their narrative together for their respective governments, along with diplomatic and military options. High-level discussions are likely on-going on an agreed upon course of action between allies.
We as Canadians have a vested interest in those options, and any decision to react to the North. Japan, South Korea and China are key trading partners, as is the US. But we need to also keep in mind that we have strategic interests outside of Asia-Pacific stability and economic prosperity. The missile tracks of a future North Korean ICBM come down over Canadian territory on their terminal phase to targets in the United States. It is not going to be ‘sunny ways.’