OTTAWA — Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Sony’s decision to cancel a movie after North Korea broke into the company’s computers is a troubling precedent that requires a strong international response.
“We’re concerned that, if it’s Sony today, who will it be tomorrow?” Baird commented at a press conference.
“This is obviously not a problem that’s going to go away now that it’s happened once. The fear that I have is: what next?”
He said it’s not the first time North Korea has sparked global concerns and “obviously the international community will have to work to address this.”
The FBI said Friday North Korea was behind the attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment’s computer network. Sony declined to show The Interview, a comedy about the North Korean regime, after hackers threatened violence in theatres that aired the film. A North Korean diplomat denied involvement.
But in a lunchtime press conference, Obama said Sony “made a mistake” in giving in to the threats. Asked about Obama’s remark, Baird said he didn’t see the news conference but added, “Good for him.”
Also Friday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke with Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko. Harper reiterated Canada’s support for Ukraine in its confrontation with Moscow and later announced additional economic sanctions against Russia. These included travel bans and economic sanctions against 20 Russian and Ukrainian individuals and export restrictions on technologies used in Russia’s oil exploration and extractive sector.
Baird told reporters the impact of these measures against Russia by Canada and its allies can be seen in the current economic problems in Russia.
“The ruble’s cliff dive should be enough to give President (Vladimir) Putin and his backers pause,” Baird said, referring to the recent decline in the value of the Russian currency. Of the sanctions, he added, “I think this is going to have a major effect and I think at some point President Putin will choose another path.”
Baird said Canada will continue to try to root out the Islamic State extremist group in Iraq and that there has been no decision to approve Canadian airstrikes in Syria.
He also played down tensions between Ottawa and Washington over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline to carry Canadian crude to the U.S. Gulf Coast. Obama has put off a decision on the pipeline and has repeatedly said the project would benefit Canada but not Americans.
“We’re going to continue as a government to promote our interests,” Baird said.
“Obviously, in the collaboration with a great economy, from time to time there are problems. (But) in most cases, we agree on economic files and enjoy free trade” with the U.S., he said.
Canada, he said, will keep talking up Keystone with the Obama administration “and we will hopefully get a decision in 2015.”
Asked about resuming diplomatic relations with Iran in order to confront the Islamic State group, Baird it would only happen if the Iranians “stop supporting terrorism around the world,” give up the capacity to enrich uranium and improve their human rights record.
Baird said Canada is proud to have helped set up the secret meetings between U.S. and Cuban officials that led to easing of relations this week between the Americans and Cuba.
“I think it says something that, when the United States needed a friend to support — even in a minor way — these efforts, they looked to Canada.”
Of Obama’s move to end the half-century embargo against Cuba, Baird said, “Obviously, successive Canadian governments, including this one, have taken a very different view with respect to the embargo, and I just commend the (Obama) administration for, in my judgment, doing the right thing.
“This is an accomplishment for the two governments and Canada is proud to have played a very small role in helping,” he remarked.