Friday, January 17, 2003
Beyond the Pole - 17th January 2003, 23.18

Geoff Hoon, Minister of Defence, appeared before the House of Commons Select Committee for Defence on the 15th January 2003, with two senior civil servants from the MOD, in order to answer questions on the upgrading of the radar facilities at Fylingdales.

Hoon indicated that Britain faced a potential enemy that would be able to fire missiles across the polar region and threaten these islands: North Korea and the dreaded Taepo-dong II missile, which has a range of four thousand miles and could be deployed towards the end of this decade. A civil servant pointed out that, "It has that range that you are talking about and they could test one of those within weeks, although we believe that the capability to deploy them will take possibly to the end of the decade."

Here is a map from that indicates the threat of North Korea to Finland is slim with the Taepo-dong II; to us, it is nil, unless the system was sold to hostile countries located closer to us - a possibility further down the line. (There is a possibility that the missile could be tested by Iran).

It would not be the first time that the government has conjured up a potential threat in order to justify a decision that is based, in large part, on its wish to maintain the present close relationship with the US. The cynics on the Committee were far more eager to see a Memorandum of Understanding signed that would provide technology transfer from the US to GB with the requisite contracts for British companies.

This does not underestimate the threat of missile proliferation and as long as Britain maintains its activist stance in the 'war on terror', we should look to our security. A greater concern for me was Hoon's admission that if national missile defence for the United Kingdom was established, it would have to depend upon interceptors based in continental Europe. Given the attitude of European states to the relationship of the US and the UK, such a deployment could give a veto to states that, quite frankly, do not hold our interests at heart. It would be in Britain's interests for the US to concentrate on sea-based interceptors that we could buy and deploy in the Atlantic, the North Sea and the Med.


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