POLITICS

John Baird: West 'Grappling' With Response To North Korea Sony Hack

12/23/2014 02:52 EST | Updated 02/22/2015 05:59 EST
OTTAWA - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says the world is grappling with how to respond to a cyberattack crippling Sony Pictures and which the United States blames on North Korea.

North Korea's Internet was up and running Tuesday after a 10 hour shutdown following the United States' vow of a response for the Sony attack, which saw the entertainment company's private data leaked online and threats made against it connected to an upcoming film.

But Baird was unclear about what could done to respond to future provocations.

"We're grappling with how you do that. This is the challenge. You've got a country like North Korea, who is so isolated and now that the world allowed them to acquire nuclear weapons, it's a challenge on how you tackle it," Baird told Ottawa radio station CFRA.

North Korea denies responsibility for the Sony attack but has called it a "righteous deed" because the company's new comedy film, "The Interview," depicts the assassination of its authoritarian leader, Kim Jong Un.

Baird said he has no reason not to believe the U.S. when it blames North Korea for hacking into the company's computers and spreading the information.

Baird said he's had talks with Chinese officials about what to do with the isolated hermit kingdom on the Korean Peninsula.

"I've had long conversations with officials in China about how we tackle North Korea's nuclear program. It's such a challenging country to have a dialogue with," he said.

"Increasingly China is becoming fed up with North Korea, with its provocative actions, militarily against South Korea and its aggressive posture in the region. Obviously they're one of the few countries who have any influence with the regime, and obviously want to use it for good."

Once a year, Canada is able to engage directly with North Korea as part of a dialogue through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

"The North Korean foreign minister is there, and his remarks are always the most colourful part of the meetings," Baird noted.

Baird's office said that Canada has taken a number of actions against North Korea recently, including co-sponsoring a United Nations resolution last month condemning its human rights record.

Baird said the fact Sony had originally cancelled the planned release of the film is an affront to free speech and the threat can't be allowed to stand.

"I think this is much bigger than Sony," he said.

"If it's Sony today, who could it be tomorrow? We're very concerned . . . This is a huge issue of freedom of expression, freedom of speech."

Sony subsequently announced Tuesday that "The Interview" would be released in select theatres on Christmas Day as originally planned.

"We have never given up on releasing 'The Interview'," Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton said in a statement.

"While we hope this is only the first step of the film's release, we are proud to make it available to the public and to have stood up to those who attempted to suppress free speech."

A White House spokesman welcomed the decision after President Barack Obama initially criticized Sony's decision not to release the film.

"As the president made clear, we are a country that believes in free speech, and the right of artistic expression," said spokesman Eric Schultz.

— with files from The Associated Press

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