Kim Jong-Un's Christmas Gift
The Minister of National Defence's mandate letter from Prime Minister Trudeau specifies NORAD modernization as a priority without dedicated money in the $4-5 billion range and without policy cover in "Strong, Secure, and Engaged." Few people believe that the government will act on the requirement and even fewer believe that we will play the game without coming to terms with the US on Missile Defense. We have entered a time for the US where we are either in on Missile Defense or out. The Americans are prepared to go it alone.
President Trump's diplomacy geared to disarm North Korea of both its nuclear weapons and long-range missiles has failed. North Korea has warned the US and the world of a big 'Christmas Gift' before the New Year. The US has deployed two RC-135S Cobra Ball aircraft to the region to monitor ballistic missile tests. As well, Japan is deploying two of its Aegis equipped destroyers to the Sea of Japan to track ballistic missile launches as North Korea's government through its state organs continues to make bellicose statements. The US has warned that a North Korean ICBM test will be viewed as a 'red line.'
Note that North Korea is known for playing games of 'brinksmanship' to get what it wants and has done it over decades. While North Korean missile tests are expected especially around the New Year, Pyongyang could fire off some short-range missiles and then go to ground until its next round of 'brinksmanship.' It has unveiled three strategic missile systems this year in the North Korean version of Russia's Iskander-M SRBM, a new Multi-Rocket Launch System, and the Pukguksong-3 SLBM and further tests of these systems can be expected. North Korea could test-fire an Hwasong-12 IRBM missile and put one up over Japan or direct one out into the Pacific as a demonstration of its ability to strike the US bases at Guam. Expect the ICBM if tested to fly over Japan or to be launched or lofted at a severe angle. There is also an outside chance that the North would conduct another nuclear test, but its test facility appears mothballed, and another nuclear test would threaten Pyongyang's relationship with both China and Russia.
It is my contention that the North will test-fire an ICBM of its HS-15 system or a new fourth strategic system this year. The HS-15 is a liquid-fueled road-mobile nuclear-capable ICBM. A newer version for test could see either an enhance motor and fuel system or a more robust re-entry vehicle or both. We could also see the test of a completely new ICBM with a new solid-fuel rocket engine system and more robust re-entry vehicle. The North Koreans will most certainly want to demonstrate an ability to strike anywhere in the continental US to achieve some level of strategic deterrence and to enhance regime survival.
Right now, North Korea's two ICBMs HS-14 and HS-15 could strike anywhere west of Ottawa. These systems are not known at this point for their accuracy and Canada represents strategic territory over which North Korean ICBMs fly to strike the US and represent to American Missile Defenses wide open spaces for a downing of Pyongyang's ICBMs. The launch of an enhanced North Korean ICBM and the danger it brings to our cities and territory and the American response are likely to put additional pressures on the Trudeau government that could make it much easier for Canada to accede to Missile Defense and open up opportunities in NORAD and North Warning. Being left out of American planning, strategic calculations and decision-making in a North Korean ICBM launch on North America is not in Canada's national interest. Only time will tell if the Trudeau government is up to the task by saddling- up Kim Jong-un's Christmas 'gift horse' and making the conscious decision to join the US Missile Defense program before it is too late.