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dated: 2022-11-20 03:16:25 .
BANGKOK – The Liberal government’s long-promised Indo-Pacific strategy will include new investments to strengthen the Canadian Armed Forces’ role in the region, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday in Thailand.
“This will support our allies, Japan and South Korea, and all of us in the Pacific,” Trudeau said Friday as he wrapped up his appearance at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum.
The crowd was distracted by the news that North Korea had launched a ballistic missile that landed near Japanese waters.
“This is completely unacceptable and must not continue,” Trudeau told reporters at a news conference in Bangkok.
The United States called an impromptu meeting with the leaders of Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Canada hosted by US Vice President Kamala Harris.
Trudeau told his five colleagues that Canada would continue its role in a United Nations mission called Operation Neon to monitor sanctions against North Korea.
“Canada joins our allies in strongly condemning North Korea’s continued irresponsible actions,” he said.
Trudeau said the repeated missile launches “must be condemned by everyone, in the region and around the world.”
Canada’s participation in the APEC meeting ended with a pledge of nearly $183 million in new funding over five years to strengthen ties with the region, part of an Indo-Pacific strategy the Liberals finally launched.
This includes $92.5 million to create approximately 60 new jobs, both in Canadian offices in the region and in Global Affairs Canada.
“This will increase Canada’s presence here on the ground (and) deepen diplomatic ties to build and maintain the important relationships we are creating,” International Trade Secretary Mary Ng said Friday.
There is also $45 million for trade missions and approximately $32 million to establish Canada’s first agricultural office.
Before being pulled aside to discuss North Korea’s move with other leaders, Trudeau announced that Ottawa would spend $13.5 million to establish a team in Canada and Asia to form energy partnerships.
“The need for clean energy and green infrastructure is also growing rapidly here in the Indo-Pacific,” Trudeau said in opening remarks at a news conference before taking questions from reporters.
“As the world moves toward net zero, there is tremendous potential to expand our relationships with natural resources.”
While Trudeau has previously talked about expanding natural gas exports to Japan and Korea, his office said he also wants to trade natural resources with India, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore and Taiwan.
The new funding is part of an Indo-Pacific strategy that the Liberals have begun phasing out after years of promises.
Last week, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said she had been told by diplomats in Asia about “the problem that Canada is not always a reliable partner because sometimes we show up, then we leave and then we come back”.
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha noted the sporadic engagements Thursday as he welcomed Trudeau to his residence in Bangkok.
“This is your first visit as prime minister,” Prayut said through a translator.
“I hope this visit, this particularly short one, will be memorable,” as Trudeau was in his youth, Prayut said.
On Friday, Trudeau appeared to disagree with Joly’s set-up.
“Canada is serious about this region, we always have been,” he said
“This opportunity to engage directly, to demonstrate our serious commitment to the Indo-Pacific strategy (…will) show that we have a very strong presence in terms of partnerships and investments.”
In other meetings with APEC leaders, Trudeau said he had declared war on Ukraine to Russia and emphasized the importance of the World Trade Organization in upholding trade rules.
During the meeting of heads of state, Trudeau sat between the heads of government of Brunei and Chile, who were arranged alphabetically by the English name of each country. This may have avoided another awkward meeting between Trudeau and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Xi was filmed on Wednesday accusing Trudeau of damaging diplomatic ties by sharing details of an earlier meeting with the media. Beijing later accused Canada of being “condescending” to China.
The prime minister said he had attended “numerous meetings” in APEC where Xi was present, but declined to say whether the two had discussed the incident.
Trudeau also dined with the leaders of APEC’s 21 members, as well as guests invited by the Thai government, including Saudi Arabia’s Prime Minister and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Trudeau told reporters that he addressed the human rights record in Saudi Arabia and that Canada must work with countries of “diverse origins” to make progress on issues such as climate change or the economy.
“In every conversation with every leader, I’ve made sure we address human rights concerns and issues that need to be highlighted to Canadians. That’s exactly what I did,” he said.
Macron also attended the lunch as a non-APEC guest, while Thailand invited Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
However, the Associated Press reported that the Cambodian leader canceled a visit to Thailand and left the G20 summit in Bali early after testing positive for COVID-19.
Trudeau also met separately with Harris on Friday and discussed a range of issues, including the Haiti crisis and Iran sanctions. They discussed the recent US midterm elections and touched on abortion, climate change and the economy, Trudeau’s office said.
He also met with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who said she wants to work with Canada when Trudeau releases a regional strategy.
Ardern said she agreed with most of what Trudeau said in APEC’s closed-door discussions.
“Listening to the interventions in the space, you hear many areas where we are like-minded; where we have the same fears, where we have the same aspirations,” she said.
After visiting Cambodia, Indonesia and Thailand, Trudeau will leave the region for Tunisia, arriving Saturday morning for the Francophonie summit weekend.
The gathering will bring together leaders from countries and regions with large French-speaking populations to discuss everything from economic policy to the use of French in the digital age.
Trudeau is expected to meet with leaders from across Africa, many of whom are concerned about instability caused by soaring food prices, which the Liberals say has been exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The prime minister is expected to return to Ottawa on Monday morning.
This Canadian Press report was first published on November 18, 2022.
According to Trudeau, the Canadian Armed Forces need to increase engagement in the Indo-Pacific
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