Thank you. My remarks draw on 33 years of experience in the Canadian foreign service and, since then, my work with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.
I spent a week earlier this year in Seoul as a guest of the Korea Foundation, meeting with Korean scholars and senior Korean defence officials and senior officials.
Let me address three questions: first, Canadian participation in BMD; second, our policy toward North Korea; and third, how Canada can contribute to nuclear non-proliferation.
On ballistic missile defence, I believe it is now time for Canada to participate in BMD as an insurance policy to shield Canadians should missiles come our way. Our European allies and Pacific partners employ it. So should we.
The government dodged consideration of BMD in the recent defence policy review. When I asked at the technical briefing, at the launch of the DPR last May, I was told that the government was staying with the policy adopted by the Martin government and then Harper government that we will not participate in BMD but that the government was discussing defending North America against “all threats” with the U.S. government. That would have to include BMD.
From discussions around the 2005 decision, I understand that at that time the government could not get adequate answers to three questions: first, whether BMD works and how BMD would protect Canada; second, how much participation Canada would have in what is essentially a U.S.-managed system; and third, how much it would cost.
These are still good questions, and the current government should get these answers and share them with Canadians.
That said, based on the evidence presented to it, the Senate national defence committee unanimously recommended in June 2014 that Canada participate in BMD. I think that is the course we should take.
Since then there has been abundant evidence of North Korea’s improved capacity to both miniaturize a nuclear warhead and then project it by ballistic missile across continents. As then President George W. Bush reportedly asked then Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2006: what happens if a North Korean missile aimed at Los Angeles or Seattle winds up heading towards Calgary or Vancouver? Don’t we want protection?
While the U.S. may protect a Canadian target near to a U.S. city, there can be no guarantee, since the U.S. system is limited in size and the North Korean ICBM force is of uncertain number and capacity. Unless we are inside the system and making a contribution, we have no assurances, even if the U.S. commander would wish to protect a Canadian target that is remote from a U.S. asset—think, in particular, of Edmonton or Calgary.
Consideration of Canadian engagement on BMD should cover all possible initiatives beyond the simple positioning of anti-missiles in Canada. These would range from a government declaration that we acknowledge the missile threat to North America, to allocating additional Canadian Forces resources to NORAD, to equipping our naval assets with appropriate gear to detect missiles, to radar arrays in Canada, to writing a cheque to support research.
In each case, it would require more attention to security in Canada’s north. Joining BMD would likely bring the continental BMD defence function under NORAD and NORTHCOM. Canada has participated in NORAD’s missile warning function for many years, and bringing BMD into it would strengthen the binational institution at the heart of Canada-U.S. relations, and the defence relationship in particular.
On North Korea, I believe that the government, as part of its commitment to active internationalism, needs to reconsider its current policy approach to North Korea. Diplomatic relations are not a seal of good housekeeping but rather the means by which we advance Canadian interests and protect Canadians. Relations also allow us to bring insight, intelligence, and a Canadian perspective to the diplomatic table.
The current policy of controlled engagement was adopted by the Harper government in 2010 after a North Korean submarine torpedoed a South Korean warship in blatant disregard of its international obligations.
The current policy limits engagement to discussion of, one, regional security concerns; two, the human rights and humanitarian situation in North Korea; three, inter-Korean relations; and four, consular issues. This last provision was how national security advisor Daniel Jean negotiated the recent exit from North Korea of Pastor Lim. The Lim episode aside, it has meant we have virtually no contact with the Kim regime.
There has not been an ambassadorial visit to North Korea since 2010. In fact, no Canadian ambassador has been accredited to North Korea since 2011. This contrasts with like-minded embassies in Seoul whose ambassadors have regularly travelled to North Korea in the last seven years. Seven EU countries also have resident embassies in North Korea.
Our current policy helps no one, hinders communication, particularly at a time when we most need it, and puts us at an information disadvantage, which lessens our value to our closest allies.
The authoritarian regime of Kim Jong-un continues to break international nuclear non-proliferation norms, despite repeated Security Council resolutions. My view is that, while any role for Canada would likely be limited, it would serve our interests to engage the North Koreans, thus enabling us to bring some intelligence or niche capacity to the table.
My former foreign service colleague James Trottier, who made four official visits to North Korea in 2015 and 2016, recently wrote an informed and useful piece in The Ottawa Citizen, arguing for a combination of negotiations, incentives, sanctions, and strengthened missile defence.
Here are some observations. First, South Korea is our friend, a fellow middle power, and the only nation in Asia with which we have a free trade agreement. It's a country that we should cultivate, keeping in mind that it respects and understand toughness in trade negotiations.
South Korea has lived under the threat of bombardment by North Korea since the armistice in 1953. Seoul, a city of 10 million people, is 60 kilometres from the border and within easy range of conventional bombardment. After I met with a very senior official in March, he walked me to the elevator, where I saw what I thought were a bunch of goggles. He looked at me and said, “That’s for a chemical or biological gas attack. I don’t fear a nuclear bomb, because what we have created in South Korea is just too valuable for Kim Jong-un to destroy. He’d rather eliminate us so he can put his own people here.”
Second, Kim Jong-un is ruthless—