HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) â€” If Canada opts out of the U.S. missile defense project and a Canadian city were to come under missile attack, the United States might choose not to shoot it down, a senior U.S. military officer said Tuesday.
Vice Adm. Herbert Browne, deputy commander of U.S. Space Command, said that the United States wants Canada to participate in the antimissile system, which is being developed at an estimated cost of $20 billion to defend all 50 U.S. states against attack from a small number of intercontinental ballistic missiles.
As a practical matter, the antimissile system as currently designed could protect much of Canada as well as the United States. The Canadian government, however, has so far balked at joining the program.
Browne said that if Canada participated, then the antimissile system could be commanded and controlled by the North American Aeropsace Defense Command, the joint U.S.-Canadian operation in Cheyenne Mountain, Colo., where the two countries have defended North American airspace for five decades.
In the absense of a Canadian role, the system would be commanded by U.S. Space Command. President Clinton is scheduled to decide by fall whether to move ahead with the missile defense system, which could be ready for operations as early as 2005. The missile interceptors would be based in Alaska.
In a briefing for reporters on his command's role in national missile defense, Browne said that if U.S. satellites detected a hostile missile headed for Ottawa, ``We would have absolutely no obligation to defend'' the Canadian capital, unless Canada were a participant in the antimissile system.
Asked later to elaborate, Browne raised the theoretical possibility that an attacker might shoot missiles first at Ottawa and then at Detroit or another U.S. city. If the United States expended its available missile interceptors protecting Ottawa and were left with none to defend Detroit, the American public would say ``that makes absolutely no sense,'' he said.
Browne said that in many cases, hostile missiles would be engaged over Canadian airspace even if they were aimed at American rather than Canadian targets.
Browne said Canada should not only participate in the antimissile project but contribute to it as well. He said Canada could contribute by allowing the United States to put a high-powered radar somewhere in eastern Canada to help track incoming missiles.