Justin Trudeau says Canada could play a key role in defusing the tense global standoff with the North Korean regime by working with Cuba, a course of action the prime minister says he discussed with Cuban President Raul Castro when the two men met in Havana last year.
"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 Thursday in response to a question about the threat of nuclear war posed after an unrelated speech in Charlottetown.
"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."
Trudeau said Canada has taken a keen interest in North Korea's aggressive stance because the outcome of that country's development of missile technology could have a direct impact on Canadians.
"If you look at the flight path, there's potential challenges for intercontinental missiles from North Korea passing over Canadian territory," he said.
"Nothing we have tried as a global community has really managed to prevent what we have now, which is North Korea getting closer to a point where they have nuclear weapons that are actually a threat to the region and to the world ... It's steadily getting worse."
The prime minister said the approach taken by the United States has included a combination of sanctions, diplomatic pressure and "flexing in unpredictable ways – military threats."
He suggested Canada has taken a different approach.
"These are the kinds of things where Canada can play a role that the United States has chosen not to play this past year."
Earlier this week, North Korea's official news agency said U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to relist the Asian country as a state sponsor of terrorism amounted to a serious provocation that justifies its development of nuclear weapons.
The agency said North Korea has no connection to terrorism and "doesn't care whether or not the United States places the hat of terrorism on our heads."
Last week, Trudeau told an Asian summit that Canada stands alongside Asia in demanding North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs, saying North Korea's actions are against its international obligations and UN Security Council resolutions.
On Thursday, Trudeau said the North Korean regime has taken pride in "being on the opposite side of much of the world," which has made it difficult for the international community to deal with its increasingly bellicose position. He said working with China and Russia is important because North Korea relies on them for much of its energy supply.