Freeland: China could help coax North Korea into 'civilized world'
Published Saturday, April 15, 2017 7:33AM EDT
As tensions escalate between the United States and North Korea, Canada’s foreign affairs minister is looking to China to help “bring North Korea back into the civilized world.”
Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland spoke to CTV’s Question Period with Evan Solomon, where she condemned recent North Korean missile tests and outlined Canada’s strategy for a resolution.
On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the Trump administration is willing to do whatever necessary, including its own pre-emptive strike, to prevent a North Korea attack.
Freeland refused to say whether Canada supports such an attack, insisting that she doesn’t answer “hypothetical questions.”
“What I will say is we unequivocally condemn the missile testing that North Korea has done. North Korea is breaking international law and its own commitments,” Freeland said in an interview, airing Sunday on CTV’s Question Period.
Instead Freeland said she’s focused on a key political relationship with China, one of the only countries that has been successful in reasoning with leader Kim Jong-un.
“We do talk about North Korea when we talk to China. And I really believe that China shares our interest -- the Western interest -- in a Korean peninsula which is stable,” she said.
“I think the visit of President Xi to the United States was, by all accounts, an important visit. Bringing China into that North Korea discussion is very important.”
There are small signs that China is rethinking some of its alliances. At the United Nations this week, China abstained from a vote on a Syria resolution, which was vetoed by Russia. The move was surprising to some observers, who expected China to stand behind Russia.
Freeland called the gesture “extremely significant.”
“So I think that there is a real opportunity to get the Chinese to help the Western world, to help the G7, and this is something we talked about … to get the Chinese to help bring North Korea back into the civilized world,” she said.
On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was speaking in France when he appeared to stop just short of using the word “crazy” to describe North Korea’s recent behaviour.
“We need to ensure that we are working together with our allies to find a path forward there because a nuclear power like North Korea that has shown a level of irresponsibility and…,” Trudeau trailed off, before continuing: “Fundamental irresponsibility -- to not use a word like crazy, which I will not use -- is of real concern.”
Asked about Trudeau’s choice of words, Freeland stood behind the prime minister.
“I think that very many international observers find the behaviour of North Korea, starting with its leader, to be very hard to explain, and certainly, neither in the interest of North Korea or the interest of the world, so I don’t think that that is at all an unusual view,” she said.
Syria airstrikes were ‘the right thing to do’
Freeland also spoke of the recent U.S. missile strikes in Syria, calling the move “strong, focused and appropriate.” She added that she has hopes that the past few weeks represent a turning point in the region.
“I do think the chemical weapons attack, for Canadians, as for people around the world, were a clear moment to say, ‘Enough is enough.’ And a clear moment to condemn the Assad regime and to say that Assad has to go,” she said.
Freeland refused to speculate on whether Canada would back the U.S. should the Trump administration ramp up military action against the Assad regime.
Instead she underlined her close relationship with Tillerson, who she said was grateful to have Canada’s support for the Syria airstrikes.
“Assad did this heinous thing, committed this war crime, and we did see action on the part of the Americans, and that was the right thing to do. And that’s why it was so important for us, for our country, for the prime minister to come out publicly and say he fully supported that action,” she said.