Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau proposed introducing Cuba into multi-lateral talks with the rogue regime in North Korea on Thursday, citing Cuba’s established friendship with North Korea and claiming that Canada must “play a role that the United States has chosen not to play” in the crisis.
The Kim Jong-un dictatorship test-fired what it claimed to be a new model of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Tuesday that South Korean experts concluded on Friday could potentially hit Washington, DC, from North Korean territory. It remains unclear whether the weapon, which Pyongyang calls the “Hwasong-15,” can carry a nuclear warhead as far as the U.S. mainland.
Trudeau told reporters on Thursday that he is keen on establishing a greater role for himself in preventing North Korea from launching a nuclear attack against the United States or rival neighbors like Japan and South Korea. He touted his own friendly personal relations with the tyrannical Castro family as evidence that he could potentially help bring an end to the illegal North Korean nuclear program.
“I’ve had surprising conversations with places you wouldn’t expect, including places like Cuba, where they actually have … decent diplomatic relations with the North Korean regime,” Trudeau said, according to Canada’s Globe and Mail. “And can we pass along messages through surprising conduits? There hasn’t been huge amount of discussion around that, but it was a topic of conversation when I met President Raul Castro last year.”
North Korea enjoys close ties to Cuba, as both are communist nations with a long record of extreme human rights abuses and violations of international law. In addition to science-, technology-, and intelligence-sharing agreements, the two countries often support each other’s interests at the United Nations and other international venues.
Trudeau visited Cuba in November 2016, about a week before Havana announced that former longtime dictator Fidel Castro had died. At the time, the news that the elder Castro would not meet with Trudeau raised speculation that the Canadian prime minister, whose family established a longtime friendship with the Castros, had fallen out of favor. Fidel Castro was an honorary pallbearer at the funeral of Trudeau’s father, former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.
Upon his death, Trudeau praised Castro as a “legendary revolutionary and orator” and “larger than life leader” who “made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation.” Castro was responsible for thousands of deaths through firing squads, drownings, torture in political prisons, and abuse in labor camps.
In addition to promoting a greater role for Cuba in addressing the North Korean threat on Thursday, Trudeau argued that Canada had a stake in ensuring the North Korean nuclear program ended. “If you look at the flight path, there’s potential challenges for intercontinental missiles from North Korea passing over Canadian territory,” he said.
Trudeau also suggested, “Canada can play a role that the United States has chosen not to play this past year” and chided the Trump administration for “flexing in unpredictable ways – military threats” towards North Korea.
Trudeau’s administration has already taken the step of calling for an international dialogue hosted in Canada next year. Canada’s CTV news reported Wednesday that Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and her American counterpart, Rex Tillerson, “have been discussing plans for the meeting for months,” according to a senior Canadian official.
That official told CTV that “it makes sense we could bring together people that may not necessarily feel that they would want to go to the United States.” Canada, CTV noted, could be a “less stressful” venue for North Korean officials.
Reuters reported the meeting would take place in January, also citing a Canadian government source.
Trudeau is scheduled to land in the capital of North Korea’s closest ally, China, on Sunday.