Shangri-La Dialogue from The Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan Minister of National Defence : De-escalating the North Korean Crisis


Colleagues, honoured guests and friends:

We come together at an important time. It is a time of hope, but also a time of uncertainty in this region.

Let me assure you, Canada will always stand with our partners. We will always stand up for international peace and security.

We believe that a diplomatic solution to instability on the Korean Peninsula is possible and remains the best way forward. 

As we have said, North Korea’s rapid escalation of its nuclear and ballistic missile development stands in contravention of UN Security Council Resolutions. It represents a threat to the region, and a growing threat to our world.

In the face of these aggressive actions, the international community has responded with a unified voice.

We are unified in our unwavering belief in a rules based order.

The Security Council has imposed its most severe and restrictive sanctions to date.

Around the world, there has been strong support for a maximum pressure campaign… a campaign to encourage North Korea to commit to completely, verifiably and irreversibly dismantling its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Over the past several months, there have been some encouraging signs of progress toward productive dialogue.

We have seen high-level meetings, two visits by Kim Jong-Un to China, and the summit between the leaders of
North and South Korea.

The international community was encouraged by North Korea’s announced moratorium on nuclear and ballistic missile tests, along with its vow to dismantle its nuclear testing facilities.

These are steps in the right direction, but we must not forget that anything short of complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization is unacceptable.

Canada is encouraged by developments concerning the planned talks between the United States and North Korea and hope for more positive momentum.

In order to maintain an atmosphere conducive to talks,
North Korea must show that it is willing to take tangible steps toward meeting its international obligations.

However, the possibility that North Korea will not willingly give up its illegal nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles means that the situation remains unstable… and the challenge before us remains urgent.

As we consider how best to confront this challenge, we must never lose sight of the fact that a nuclear North Korea is not only a regional threat. It poses a real and growing global threat that puts millions of lives at risk. 

Moreover, the country’s disregard of international pressure and opinion may have other consequences.

For instance, non-nuclear nations may be emboldened by North Korea to attempt to develop their own programs.

The global security of nuclear technology and weapons may be eroded, emboldening states and actors who seek to bring terror and destabilization.

There has always been, and there remains, a peaceful route to a positive resolution, for the world and for North Korea itself.

The United States and the Republic of Korea have been clear in their intentions.

There is no plan to seek regime change or collapse in North Korea.

There is no plan to seek accelerated reunification.

They do not seek an excuse to send troops north of the
38th parallel.

If North Korea changes course, there is a foundation for building a brighter future… so long as North Korea commits to abandoning its nuclear and ballistic missile development and returning to stability on the Peninsula.

Canada believes a peaceful, diplomatic solution is essential and possible.

But experience has taught us that the international community must move cautiously.

North Korea has failed to deliver on promises in the past, and the world should judge its sincerity by its actions.

North Korea signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, but also advanced a clandestine nuclear weapons program.

Later pledges by North Korea… including in the Six-Party Talks in 2005 and an agreement on denuclearization in 2007… led to an easing of sanctions and international commitments to respect sovereignty.

But North Korea continued to develop nuclear and ballistic missile technology… first in secret, and then in the open.

That is why denuclearization must be not only complete…
not only irreversible… but also verifiable.

We must remain united in this goal, and in the actions we take to achieve it.

No matter where we live in the world, the people that we represent all have a stake in achieving a solution. We must therefore continue to demonstrate our solidarity.

A strong, clear, and consistent multilateral message is key to ensuring that the North Korean government fully appreciates that the world will not accept its nuclear and ballistic missile development.

But our unified message must be backed by measures that stop illegal efforts to evade sanctions. Our message must be backed by measures that prevent the proliferation of nuclear technology both on and off the Peninsula.

To support the full enforcement of sanctions, nations with more developed structures must provide assistance to others in enhancing their infrastructure and regulatory frameworks.

Together, we must maintain pressure on the North Korean government to participate in genuine and responsible negotiations.

Together, we must work to share information on sanction evasion activities to ensure that they are publicly exposed, and that those involved are held accountable.

And most of all, together, we must use all diplomatic opportunities to stress to the North Korean leadership the benefits of abandoning the path of hostility … and the benefits of becoming a responsible member of the international community.
North Korea would enjoy a newfound flexibility to focus on improving the lives of its citizens…

… the freedom to explore economic improvement in its own way and under its own terms…

…the ability to move toward reconciliation with its southern neighbour...

… and the normalization of relations with the international community.

I can tell you today that the Canadian government fully supports, and has fully implemented, all sanctions approved by the UN Security Council.

Beyond that, we have put in place additional sanctions of our own to encourage North Korea to abandon its nuclear program and join the international community.

Earlier this year in Vancouver, we co-hosted twenty Foreign Ministers and representatives from around the world to discuss new diplomatic approaches to the security challenges on the Peninsula.

At this meeting, Canada committed funding to strengthen the global sanctions regime by building the capacity of partner countries to more effectively implement Security Council resolutions.

I am also pleased to tell you that Canada will be increasing its commitment to the United Nations Command this summer, and assuming greater leadership and responsibility in the region.

This enhanced commitment is highlighted by the recent appointment of Lieutenant General Wayne Eyre, here with us today, who will serve as deputy commander of the UN Command in Korea.

This is the first time the post has been held by a Canadian general. General Eyre, has served Canada well, and I know you will serve the UN with distinction.

Canada has engaged with partner nations to establish a framework for the release and sharing of information regarding sanction evasion activities. This will help publicly expose responsible parties and encourage tightened enforcement of sanctions.

Canada has also deployed a long-range maritime patrol aircraft for surveillance as part of the international effort to locate and expose sanction evasion activities on the high seas. If called upon, we are willing to do more.

Looking to the future, Canada will continue to wield a defence presence in the Asia-Pacific region to encourage peace and security.

This includes the deployment of two frigates and a supply ship to the region, one of which is operating in Southeast Asia as we speak.

Ladies and gentlemen, we cannot accept North Korea as a nuclear state. 

Not today.

Not in our lifetime.

Not ever.

If we are to succeed in our mission to enhance peace in the region and around the world, the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea is the only acceptable outcome.

It is the only path to the country’s acceptance into the international community.

It is the only path to increased security for the region and the world.

Together, let us continue our united efforts to encourage North Korea to engage honestly in diplomacy.

Canada will always stand up for international peace and security. We will always stand with our partners to promote denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.

We must stand together for a peaceful resolution to this longstanding issue.

Thank you, merci.

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