Pulling Canadian diplomats out of North Korea seven years ago was a mistake, says a former ambassador to the Korean Peninsula.
Marius Grinius served as Canada’s envoy to South Korea from 2004 to 2007 and concurrently as our ambassador to North Korea from 2005 to 2007. During a panel discussion this weekend, he told The West Block‘s Vassy Kapelos that there were reasons for Canada’s withdrawal in May 2010 – namely the sinking of a South Korean warship – but Canada has lost a foothold in Pyongyang as a result.
““I’m fully supportive of a total reversal of (the decision to cut ties),” Grinius said. “I’m not advocating an embassy, but I am advocating regular visits.”
WATCH: North Korea to join Olympics in South Korea as tensions ease
Canada, which is getting set to host a series of meetings this week in Vancouver on the North Korean nuclear threat, needs a presence in the country to observe “for ourselves” what’s going on, he explained.
The “second-hand diplomacy” currently happening via Canada’s allies isn’t enough.
“Diplomacy works best when you talk to your enemies, your possible enemies, like we did with the Soviet Union, with China after the Tiananmen massacre,” Grinius said.
Also joining Kapelos on The West Block was former U.S. State Department official Bonnie Jenkins. She said that in spite of U.S. President Donald Trump’s shifting moods on North Korea, there are officials like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who are more consistent.
“We still need to be promoting diplomacy. It’s good that secretary Tillerson is going to be going (to Vancouver) and promoting it, even if there’s been some rumours about his own job,” Jenkins said.
“There’s always been a part of the U.S. government that’s been saying we want to have diplomacy backed by strong military options.”
The meetings in Vancouver are reportedly being skipped by both China and Russia, however, two major players in the North Korean crisis. The Canadian government is keeping a tight lid on which countries have been invited and plan to attend the event, which Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is organizing with Tillerson.
“They’ve expressed their unhappiness with that meeting,” Grinius noted. “My suspicion is that, in actual fact, any meeting about North Korea where they do not participate, where they do not have a veto … makes them unhappy.”
– Watch the full panel discussion above.
– With a file from the Canadian Press