Canada's Conservative Party-led government seems to be probing the public interest in joining a U.S. antimissile initiative, the Globe and Mail reports.
Conservative-controlled panels in the Canadian Senate and House of Commons are interviewing experts about the costs and benefits of collaborating with the United States on a missile defense framework to protect North America, according to the Tuesday article. In 2005, then-Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin of the Liberal Party opted to turn down a U.S. request to participate in regional missile defense.
A change in political leadership as well as perceptions of a growing threat posed by North Korea's long-range missile development have prompted Ottawa to reassess its stance on the issue, according to Colin Robertson, vice-president of the Canadian Defense and Foreign Affairs Institute.
"I think the government is testing the waters to see whether the conditions are right," said Robertson, who favors joining the U.S. missile shield.
Philip Coyle, a onetime head of the Pentagon's weapons testing and evaluation office, in Monday testimony to the Senate criticized U.S. missile defense efforts as ineffective. "The hardware being deployed in Alaska and California has no demonstrated capability to defend the United States, let alone Canada, against enemy missile attack under realistic operational conditions," Coyle said.
He was referring to the 30 interceptors currently fielded on the West Coast as part of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system -- the country's principal defense against a limited strategic ballistic missile strike.
Conference of Defense Associations Institute analyst David Perry said he believes the Canadian government is "floating a trial balloon" with the parliament hearings.
Defense Minister Rob Nicholson's office would not answer a question on whether the government is considering changing its mind about missile defense cooperation with Washington.
"No decision has been made to change this policy," said his spokeswoman, Johanna Quinney. "We will continue to monitor international developments."