Saturday, July 08, 2006

Canada won't join missile defense, for now

Canada won't join missile defense, for now
By Pamela Hess
UPI Pentagon Correspondent
Jul. 7, 2006 at 8:57AM

Despite North Korea's missile launches Canada has no plans to join the United States missile defense system, the prime minister said Thursday.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper also expressed his desire that a new border identification law passed by the U.S. Congress be delayed if not scrapped outright.

"The government of Canada is not prepared to open the issue of missile defense at this time," he said.

Former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin told the United States in February 2005 Canada would not endorse the nascent ground-based missile interceptor system meant to protect the United States from an enemy ballistic missile. This announcement came after U.S. President George W. Bush surprised Martin with a broad request to support the program.
Bush did not raise the issue in his morning meeting with Harper.

"I didn't bring it up. I figured if he was interested he would bring it up," Bush said. "This is a particularly difficult political issue inside Canada."

Harper also criticized the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, part of a broader initiative by the U.S. Congress to tighten security at the borders.

Canada is worried the new requirement for North Americans crossing borders to have passports -- involving time and expense for people who can otherwise travel with different documents -- will harm trade, tourism and cultural relations.

"The president and I agree that the implementation of the provisions of the WHTI must not unduly hinder cross-border travel or tourism or trade," Harper said. "If the fight for security ends up meaning that the United States becomes more closed to its friends, then the terrorists have won."

More than 300,000 people travel between Canada and the United States every day, and the overwhelming majority are considered low-risk travelers, according to the Canadian government.

"I would hate to see a law go into place that has the effect of not just limiting or endangering trade or tourism, but endangering all those thousands of social interactions that occur across our border every day and are the reasons why Canada and the United States have the strongest relationship of any two countries not just on the planet, but in the history of mankind," Harper said.

"We're prepared to cooperate, and also urge the Congress to apply some flexibility in reaching their objective of security," Harper said.

U.S. chambers of Congress have also opposed the plan, citing the potential loss of jobs and personal income in the border region, as well as a decrease in gross product and housing values.

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