Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other members of his government have described North Korea’s firing of a missile over Japan last Tuesday as a threat to world peace and has urged a diplomatic solution to the escalating nuclear crisis. This provocative missile test by North Korea was carried out following military drills conducted by the combined forces of South Korea and the U.S. close to the region. The U.S. and Canada hold diverging views of how the threat posed by North Korea should be handled. Canada’s Foreign Affairs minister, Chrystia Freeland, called on North Korea to “resume dialogue toward a political solution” while U.S. President Donald Trump seems to have dismissed diplomatic negotiations with North Korea. The day after this missile test by North Korea, Trump tweeted that “the U.S. has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years. Talking is not the answer!” However, others within his cabinet, such as his defence secretary, have not been so quick to dismiss diplomatic solutions.
The recent actions of North Korea have revived the discussion within Canada over whether the country should join the U.S’ ballistic missile defence shield against North Korea. Last week, the House of Commons defence committee held a rare summer sitting to discuss this issue in relation to the threat posed by North Korea. In previous times, this all-party committee has endorsed the idea of joining the missile defence, but this, alongside a similar recommendation by the Senate defence committee, was ignored. Trudeau has stated that Canada has no interest in joining the controversial program which the past Liberal government of Paul Martin and Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper governments have avoided since 2005.
There is, however, some division on the issue, with some experts calling for a more careful examination of North Korea’s capabilities in recent times before it is determined that joining the U.S’ program is unnecessary. Others, like the New Democrats, who served notice on Tuesday that they would fight against any proposal to join the system, claim that the defence shield is expensive, does not work, and will only serve to heighten nuclear tensions. Canada’s recently released defence policy acknowledges the threat posed by North Korea but upholds the 2005 decision to keep Canada out of the United States’ largely unproven, high-tech interceptor system. However, the policy does create room for discussion with the U.S. on how to improve continental defences against several threats, including ballistic missiles.
Those against Canada joining the United States’ system insist that the solution is diplomacy and not military action, but it is unclear if North Korea feels the same way. The international community has bargained repeatedly with Pyongyang, offering incentives for it to give up its nuclear program, but this has not yielded positive results. Instead, the situation seems to be escalating, as North Korea carried out another missile test – believed to be the country’s most powerful test yet – on Sunday in obvious defiance of President Trump. A modest revival of diplomatic ties between North Korea and Canada occurred last month when Canadian officials travelled to the country to negotiate the successful release of pastor Hyeon Soo Lim. This suggests that Canada could perhaps play a bigger role as an intermediary with the regime, though it is difficult to see what Canada has to offer in this situation where there seems to be no clear solution.