POLITICS

Trudeau Says Stance On U.S. Missile Defence System Hasn't Changed, As Trump Threatens North Korea

"I share everyone's concern over the reckless behaviour."

09/19/2017 13:43 EDT | Updated 09/19/2017 15:45 EDT
THE CANADIAN PRESS
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at a news conference in Ottawa on Sept. 19, 2017.

As his U.S. counterpart threatened to "totally destroy" North Korea, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government's opposition to joining the U.S. continental missile-defence shield hasn't changed.

For now, at least.

Trudeau held a press conference in Ottawa Tuesday as U.S. President Donald Trump addressed the United Nations General Assembly for the first time.

Trump used the speech to bash North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un over his nuclear ambitions and growing arsenal of weapons.

"Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime," Trump said of Kim.

If the U.S. is forced to defend itself or its allies, it would have "no choice but to totally destroy North Korea," Trump announced at the podium.

Trudeau walked a fine line when a reporter asked him about Trump's warning, almost in real time.

"I share everyone's concern over the reckless behaviour by the North Korean regime," Trudeau said.

He added that working with partners such as China, Japan, South Korea and the U.S. was the best way to de-escalate a situation that is "a danger not just to the region but to global peace."

As for what the president may have said, I look forward to seeing his speech myself.

He said Canada will continue to "push along with the international community" against North Korea's behaviour.

"As for what the president may have said, I look forward to seeing his speech myself."

But the prime minister faced questions in French and English about Canada possibly joining the U.S. ballistic missile-defence program, particularly in light of revelations from Canada's top officer at the North American Aerospace Defence Command (Norad) that the U.S. would not be obligated to defend Canada if it was attacked by North Korea.

For the time being, Canada's position on that issue remains the same, Trudeau said.

When pressed on whether the threat of North Korean missiles reaching North America means Canada should join the U.S. defence program, Trudeau said his government is always assessing how best to protect Canadians from threats.

Eduardo Munoz / Reuters
U.S. President Donald Trump addresses the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York on Sept. 19, 2017.

"We have not changed our position at this point but we continue to engage in thoughtful ways to ensure we're doing everything we can and we must do to keep Canadians safe," he said.

Canada decided not to join the U.S. missile shield in 2005, a decision that reportedly angered the administration of then-president George W. Bush. Canada and the U.S. do jointly monitor possible airborne threats through Norad.

Though Conservatives did not reverse that decision during their near-decade in power, Tory foreign affairs critic Erin O'Toole has said the threat of North Korea one day being able to launch an intercontinental missile that could hit North America means Canada's policy needs to be re-examined.

"Circumstances have changed dramatically, not only in the last few years but in the last few months," O'Toole recently told The National Post.

Some Liberals wonder if it's time


Liberal MP Mark Gerretsen, who sits on the defence committee, also told reporters last month that Canada should consider joining the shield, "given the threats that are continuing to emerge in the world," The Toronto Star reports.

John McKay, a veteran MP and former parliamentary secretary to Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, was more direct. McKay told The Hill Times Canada should now join the program, pointing to "a change in circumstances since 2005."

Former general and ex-Liberal senator Romeo Dallaire also believes it is time for Canada to get on board.

"Feeling that (the U.S.) would respond is quite different than having it somewhere on paper and being able to hold them accountable to respond should Canada be targeted," Dallaire told The Canadian Press.

With files from The Canadian Press

More from HuffPost Canada: