The parliamentary secretary to Canada’s minister of foreign affairs says North Korea‘s release of a Canadian pastor earlier this year is proof that the so-called hermit kingdom is willing to listen to reason.
Matt DeCourcey spoke with The West Block‘s Vassy Kapelos this weekend about Canada’s approach to North Korea, just days after its leader Kim Jong Un defied the international community by launching yet another ballistic missile test.
“We have had success vis-a-vis the North Korean regime with the release of Pastor (Hyeon Soo) Lim in recent months,” DeCourcey said.
He also noted that Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland “had a conversation on the sidelines” with the North Korean foreign minister at a series of international meetings last August, “and so we believe firmly that a diplomatic solution is possible.”
Pastor Lim, 62, returned to Canada in early August after being held by North Korean authorities for more than two years. He was accused of crimes against the state and sentenced to a lifetime of hard labour, but then released on humanitarian grounds. At the time, the Canadian government said it had been “actively engaged in Mr. Lim’s case at all levels.”
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Canada will be hosting a major international meeting on the North Korean nuclear crisis in the new year, Freeland confirmed after last week’s missile test. Officials have explained that Canada offers a less stressful and more neutral setting for the talks, but it remains unclear what additional contributions the country can make given that we have no formal diplomatic ties to North Korea.
“Our minister, minister Freeland, has been quite clear that we take great concern and condemn the provocative actions of North Korea and their continual testing of missiles,” DeCourcey said.
“It’s our view that we as a country can play a role with other countries — the U.S., South Korea, Japan, China — to help find a diplomatic solution to those provocative actions that create an urgent global threat.”
He would offer no comment on whether Canada considers itself a “friend” to North Korea, however. At a recent committee hearing, parliamentarians were told by an official from Global Affairs Canada that the North Koreans see us as “a peaceful and indeed a friendly country.”
DeCourcey was also pressed on whether Canada could possibly join the U.S. ballistic missile defence (BMD) program, something that Ottawa decided against under Paul Martin’s Liberal government. The mounting threat from North Korea, which now claims it could hit any target in the United States, has renewed calls for Canada to get on board with BMD.
DeCourcey would only say that “we have a long and deep tie with the United States when it comes to our collective defence and security.”
“Canadians expect us to continue with those collaborative relationships, they’ve been positive, to ensure that we look out for the safety and security of Canadians,” he added.
In spite of that, Canada’s top general, Jonathan Vance, confirmed late last week that there are no talks in progress linked to Canada joining BMD.
— Watch the full interview with Matt DeCourcey above