US policy is 'not to defend Canada' from an attack by North Korea

However, government minister says Pyongyang perceives Canada as ‘a peaceful and indeed a friendly country’

North Korea’s state-controlled broadcaster KCNA produced this image about the recent intercontinental ballistic missile test
North Korea’s state-controlled broadcaster KCNA produced this image about the recent intercontinental ballistic missile test

It is official US policy not to protect Canada in the event of a missile attack by North Korea or any other country, a leading general has warned.

It has long been assumed that Washington would defend its northern neighbour.

However, General Pierre St-Amand, the highest-ranking Canadian officer in the North American Aerospace Defense Command (Norad), dismissed the idea during a parliamentary committee meeting in Ottawa.

“The extent of the US policy is not to defend Canada. That's the fact I can bring to the table,” he said.

This statement surprised many in Canada, with public broadcaster CBC saying it had “demolished a long-held political assumption” that the US would intervene.

Norad is a joint US and Canadian organisation “charged with ... the detection, validation and warning of attack against North America whether by aircraft, missiles, or space vehicles, through mutual support arrangements with other commands”.

However, General St-Amand suggested the official policy might not necessarily be the one carried out in the event of an attack.

A decision would be made “in the heat of the moment” by the Trump administration and US military commanders, he said.

Mark Gwozdecky, assistant deputy minister for international security at Global Affairs Canada (the government department that handles diplomacy) said there had been “no direct threat to Canada” from North Korea.

“On the contrary, in recent contacts with the North Korean government, including in August when our national security adviser was in Pyongyang, the indications were they perceived Canada as a peaceful and indeed a friendly country,” he said.

However Mr Gwozdecky added that North Korea’s recent actions – which include nuclear bomb tests and firing missiles over Japan – “represent a grave threat to regional security, our friends and allies, South Korea and Japan”.

Politicians in Canada has suggested joining the US missile shield system for a number of years, but Ottawa has never actually done so.

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