NATO lawmakers focus on missile defence amid concern over North Korea, Iran

08 October 2017

Bucharest, 8 October 2017 – NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly this weekend examined calls for enhanced missile defences against the background of North Korea’s nuclear provocations, concern over Iran’s ballistic missile potential and fears that terrorist groups could acquire missile capabilities. 
“Ballistic missile proliferation continues to be a global security challenge,” said Canadian Senator Joseph A. Day in a report approved at the NATO PA’s annual session, held this year in Bucharest.
“As more state actors either acquire or develop sophisticated missile capabilities, the risk of proliferation of these capabilities to other states and non-state actors is increasing,” Day added. He underscored North Korea’s recent ballistic missile advancements are now a direct threat to US-deployed forces and territories, as well as NATO Partners Japan and South Korea. 
“Iran’s continued pursuit of increasingly capable medium- and long-range ballistic missile systems justifies the development of broad and flexible NATO ballistic missile defence throughout the totality of its European territory,” Day added. 
NATO rejects Russian claims the Alliance’s ballistic missile defences aim to undermine Moscow’s nuclear deterrent. Day said such claims are “ill-founded and merely politically expedient messaging directed toward a domestic audience.”
However, expert speaker Thomas Karako, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the Assembly the time had come “to declare that NATO has a Russia missile problem.” Karako focused particularly on lower-tier strike capabilities that could prevent the Alliance from reinforcing its eastern borders in case of conflict.
“Russian deployments whether it be in Kaliningrad or access to bases in Belarus could potentially isolate NATO’s eastern flank, hold at risk NATO’s ground forces, and support a fait accompli that could either challenge the Alliance or require massive escalation to save it,” Karako warned. 
The installation of an integrated multi-layered NATO missile defence system would have a deterrent effect, he asserted. 
The North Korea missile threat was a key theme of a presentation to the Assembly by Theresa Fallon, Director, Centre for Russia, Europe, Asia Studies, that looked at wider stability risks in East Asia. 
“In East Asia, the security threat has become increasingly more severe,” Fallon said. “There’s a changing global power balance, emerging threats, weapons of mass destruction, proliferation, international terrorism and cyber-attacks.”
Beside the “very serious” threat from North Korea, she pointed to China’s expansionist moves in the South China Sea; tension between Beijing and Tokyo in the East China Sea; threats from Islamist terrorism in Southeast Asia; and differences between China and the United States over Taiwan. “There’s an increased probability of miscalculation or unintended incident,” Fallon warned. “There is a lack of an effective crisis resolution mechanism which is a serious concern in the region.”