Yukon News

Do the North Koreans know Rotary Park is a nuclear free zone?

Keith Halliday

Yukonomist Keith Halliday Friday April 28, 2017

If conversation at your dinner table ever gets dull, I suggest you pull out a globe and challenge someone to stretch a rubber band to show the flight path between North Korea’s nuclear launch sites and Chicago.

Guess who Kim Jong-Un’s missiles will fly over?

If you’ve ever driven to Fairbanks and wondered why the Pentagon put a missile defence base at Fort Greely, now you’ll understand. Especially with new North Korean missile tests on the front page.

To further enliven your dinner conversation, ask your guests to speculate about what will happen if North Korea launches a missile and our friends in Alaska actually succeed in shooting it down with one of their 40 Raytheon Exoatmosperic Kill Vehicles. Where will the wreckage of the missile and its nuclear warhead fall to the ground?

Actually, it’s a trick question. “Exoatmospheric” means the Alaskan anti-missile system is supposed to blow up enemy missiles outside the atmosphere, in space. However, the post-explosion bits and pieces will fly in all directions and some chunks will probably come towards us.

Something similar happened when the Soviet Union’s nuclear-powered Kosmos 954 satellite fell out of space in 1978 and scattered itself along a 500-kilometer debris path from Great Slave Lake across the N.W.T.

It remains highly unlikely that the North Koreans would launch a nuclear missile. But, unfortunately, their missile capabilities have been improving a lot faster than their political stability. The BBC reports that the regime is testing the KN-08 missile, which would have the range to hit Chicago.

It would seem irrational for North Korea to launch and risk retaliatory incineration by the Americans. But cast your mind back to other dictators and what they have done in their final days in the bunker. More than one has indulged in risky moves or issued scorched earth orders in revenge for their impending fall.

This is why, in March 2013, President Obama ordered the number of interceptors at Fort Greely increased from 26 to 40. There is another base in California, and there have been plans pushed at various times to put additional bases on the East Coast and Poland.

Canada does not contribute to the U.S. ballistic missile defence system for North America. Prime Minister Paul Martin decided not to participate in 2005. However, the government in Ottawa is now said to be actively reconsidering this decision.

Back in 2005, the scheme was politically tainted by association with President Bush. Since then, Canadians have seen that even President Obama — a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, as you’ll remember — was in favour of it. Furthermore, advances in missile technology by North Korea and other rogue nations have continued at an alarming pace. The Trump administration has also been pressing Canada to spend more on defence, as we habitually show up near the bottom of NATO league tables.

What does all this mean for the Yukon? It’s not the first time our location has unexpectedly become strategic. In 1941, after the US Navy lost control of the Pacific, we turned out to be on the route for a new wartime highway to Alaska. And on the air route to ferry warplanes from US factories to the Russian front.

While we are extremely unlikely to be a target, Vancouver is at (slightly) more risk. It was where Seth Rogan’s movie The Interview was filmed. The North Korean dictator was apparently enraged by how the Canadian filmmaker portrayed him as a moronic, deranged party boy. Security agencies believe he ordered his spies to undertake the damaging 2014 hack into Sony Pictures and phone in bomb threats to theatres.

There is not much the Yukon can do about the issue. Missile defence is a federal responsibility.

I seem to recall that the City of Whitehorse declared Rotary Peace Park to be a nuclear free zone, but a quick Google search didn’t confirm this. I looked at the city’s Rotary Peace Park policy. It regulates mobile refreshment stands” but not mobile missile launchers or other nuclear-related paraphernalia. In any case, I think we can assume that North Korean missile-flight planners would ignore Whitehorse city council.

If Canada signs on to North America missile defence, there will likely be new radar stations and missile batteries deployed in Canada. But since the Americans already have Fort Greely in the northwest corner of the continent, I imagine any new deployments would be in Nunavut or Newfoundland. The missile route from Iran to New York goes right over St. John’s.

Keith Halliday is a Yukon economist and author of the MacBride Museum’s Aurore of the Yukon series of historical children’s adventure novels. He is a Ma Murray award-winner for best columnist.

7 Comments

ProScience Greenie wrote:
12:50pm Thursday May 11, 2017

Fox News, lol Mac Papineau, can’t say I’ve ever watched it, or viewed Infowars or any other kooky far right or far left propaganda sites, all of them revising history to support their twisted and harmful ideologies - fascist, communist, theocratic - all bad.

So you’re fine with the status quo for the people of North Korea? They are prisoners in their own country. How many more generations of that oppression should they have to endure? We need solutions, the more peaceful the better, but we need solutions now so the people of NK and other dictatorships and theocracies can be finally free.

Mac Papineau wrote:
11:33pm Wednesday May 10, 2017

It is both wrong, simple minded and very naive to state that in dropping the atom bomb “All the Allies including Canada were involved and right or wrong,” Truman was advised by just about everyone not to drop the bomb, but his Wall Street advisors wanted to send a message to Russia about American military power. General Sir Hastings Ismay, Chief of Staff to the British Minister of Defence, said to Prime Minister Churchill that “when Russia came into the war against Japan, the Japanese would probably wish to get out on almost any terms short of the dethronement of the Emperor. On hearing that the atomic test was successful, Ismay’s private reaction was one of “revulsion.” America supplanted Britain as a global hegemon, the dropping of the bomb was toally unnecessary, the Japanes were defeated.  Given the genocidal bombing perpetrated by the Americans during the Koeran war and other assorted war crimes it is no wonder the DRNK want atomic weapons. America could have cut a deal as with Iran but there is just to much money to be made making war. Vietnam anyone?  Stop watching Fox News and dig deeper.

Have any of you been wrote:
11:13am Monday May 8, 2017

to that part of the world. It is not what you think and the same for the middle east.

BnR wrote:
11:23am Friday May 5, 2017

Awesome!  Max Mack: North Korean apologist.  Heed your own advice Max.

ProScience Greenie wrote:
11:21am Friday May 5, 2017

Wow Max Mack, you really think NK isn’t a “rogue nation led by a tyrannical, crazed dictator.”? That is exactly what it is. Heck they shoot their own starving citizens for trying to leave the country.  For the life of me I do not get how some can have zero sympathy and compassion for people that life with zero basic freedoms, rights and liberties under brutal dictatorships and theocracies and are willing to let them suffer generation after generation. While some indeed do the blind fear-mongering thing, sadly some simply turn a blind eye to the brutality of the NK dictatorship.

As for the WWII dropping of the A-bombs, that was not a unilateral American decision. All the Allies including Canada were involved and right or wrong, all must bear that burden.

Good article Keith.

Slim Pickens wrote:
2:53pm Thursday May 4, 2017

Yes, that is an interesting conversation isn’t it? The very same reason all those jet planes constantly fly back and forth over our heads on their routes between Asia and the US mainland is the same reason why any missiles will also take the same route.  Hopefully something can be done to stop the fishbowl haircut dictator before it comes to this.

Max Mack wrote:
11:12am Thursday May 4, 2017

Keith, you really should stay away from commenting on foreign policy issues. You dish out all the tired Western tropes about NK as a “rogue nation” led by a tyrannical, crazed dictator. Then, there is the near-ridiculous claim that “he ordered his spies to undertake the damaging 2014 hack into Sony Pictures and phone in bomb threats to theatres.”

And your subtle praise of Obama for his Nobel Peace Prize . . . you have got to be fricking kidding me. You would be hard-pressed to find a more undeserving recipient. How many nations has Obama bombed (hint: at least eight)? How many nations has Kim Jong-un bombed (hint: it’s zero)?

This statement has me perplexed: “cast your mind back to other dictators and what they have done in their final days in the bunker.” Are you suggesting that NK’s leader is about to be removed by force? What exactly are you advocating here, Keith? Unless I missed some very important news, Kim Yung-Un is not in his final days and he certainly isn’t hiding in a bunker.

Might I remind you that the ONLY nation that has used nuclear weapons is the USA. Twice, they dropped nuclear bombs on largely civilian centres. And, in case you missed it, the USA has repeatedly threatened NK. And, the US has plenty of nuclear bombs and delivery systems. So, who is the real threat?

You ARE right that NK is extremely unlikely to nuke anybody. Their nuclear weapon technology is over-rated and exaggerated by both NK and the West, for starters, and their intercontinental missile delivery systems are non-existent.

Stop the blind fear-mongering, do some research and start advocating for peace on the Korean peninsula.

Add a comment

Commenting is no longer available for this story. Commenting expires 21 days after publishing.