Address by Minister Freeland at the Opening Session of the Vancouver Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Security and Stability on the Korean Peninsula

January 16, 2018 - Vancouver, British Columbia

Check against delivery. This speech has been translated in accordance with the Government of Canada’s official languages policy and edited for posting and distribution in accordance with its communications policy.

Thank you for joining us here in Vancouver. I would like to begin by acknowledging that the land on which we gather is the unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples, including the territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Selilwitulh Nations.

The North Korean nuclear crisis is one of the greatest threats the world is facing today—and it is what brings us here to Vancouver. Let me extend a special welcome to Minister Kang Kyung-wha of the Republic of Korea and Minister Taro Kono of Japan. The people of your countries are most directly affected by instability on the Korean Peninsula.

I’d also like to welcome U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Thank you, Rex. We are honoured to co-host these talks with our American friends.

The security threat posed by North Korea is a challenge for all countries. A diplomatic solution is both essential and possible, especially if we continue to work together—as allies and partners—to achieve our common objective of ensuring security and stability on the Korean peninsula. 

This meeting is thus an important opportunity to demonstrate solidarity in opposition to North Korea’s dangerous and illegal actions and to work together on strengthening our diplomatic efforts toward a secure, prosperous and denuclearized Korean peninsula.

It is also an ideal opportunity to discuss ways to increase the effectiveness of the global sanctions regime in support of a rules-based international order.

Canada is determined to work for peace and security in the Asia Pacific region, to strengthen the rules-based international order that preserves this peace and security.

Ties between Canadians and Koreans have been forged both in times of conflict and peace for more than a century.

More than 206,000 Koreans or people of Korean descent now live in Canada. Ours is one of the largest Korean diaspora communities in the world.

These ties only increase our firm desire to avoid a devastating conflict on the peninsula.

We welcome last week’s agreement between North and South Korea to hold military-to-military discussions and for North Korea to participate in the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang next month. These are encouraging signals.

But let me be clear: no true progress can be made in addressing instability in the Korean Peninsula until North Korea commits to changing course and verifiably and irreversibly abandoning all its weapons of mass destruction.

Like all of you, we in Canada understand that in these extraordinary times, it is vital that we come together—as neighbours, friends, partners and allies—to confront threats of aggression.

Nowhere in the world do we see the proliferation of weapons and materials of mass destruction on the scale of North Korea’s program.

We cannot stand by and let this threat persist. At stake are the safety and security of all people of the world.

We therefore gather here to work together for peace on the Korean Peninsula and to demonstrate our unity and resolve.

As a global community, we have shown in both word and deed that we will not accept North Korea as a nuclear threat to the world.

To this end, the UN Security Council has imposed sanctions on North Korea. The 20 nations here in Vancouver must work to make sure these measures are fully and faithfully implemented. And we must use this meeting to hone their effectiveness.

Sanctions are not an end in and of themselves. They are important tools of diplomacy aimed at bringing North Korea to the table and setting out the diplomatic paths to a peace that we all seek.

Our message to the people of North Korea is clear: despite the brutal hardships they face, we know the foremost threat is their authoritarian regime. 

To their country’s leadership, our message is clear: the pursuit of nuclearization will bring you neither security nor prosperity. Investing in nuclear weapons will lead only to more sanctions and to perpetual instability on the peninsula.

The states represented at this meeting harbour no hostility toward North Koreans; on the contrary, we seek neither a regime change nor a collapse. We are working to resolve this crisis and are aiming for what is in our collective best interests: security and stability on the Korean Peninsula and throughout the world.

We know this to be true: a decision by the regime to verifiably abandon all of its WMD [weapons of mass destruction] programs will contribute to its security and economic development, leading to a better, brighter, safer and more prosperous future for the North Korean people.

It is up to North Korea to choose the future it wants for itself.

As Lester B. Pearson said when he accepted his Nobel Peace Prize 60 years ago: “Of all our dreams today, there is none more important—or so hard to realize—than that of peace in the world. May we never lose our faith in it or our resolve to do everything that can be done to convert it one day into reality.”

Despite the immense challenges that the world faces today, let us never lose sight of this dream, and let’s endeavour to do all that we can to live up to Pearson’s words.


Adam Austen
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Media Relations Office
Global Affairs Canada
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