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Trudeau still has faith in North Korea diplomacy

Prime minister says Seoul, Ottawa “need to be very best of friends”

May 17, 2023 - 15:32 By Kim Arin
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers an address to the South Korean National Assembly on Wednesday. (Yonhap)

Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, stressed Ottawa’s commitment to back Seoul’s efforts to bring Pyongyang back to the table for peace discussions in an address to the South Korean National Assembly on Wednesday.

“Canada is committed to supporting the Republic of Korea’s efforts towards a denuclearized, peaceful and prosperous Korean peninsula,” he said, adding that stability in the North Pacific is “essential to global stability.”

“Canada will continue to call on North Korea to return to dialogue and diplomacy,” he said, referring to the recent renewal of Operation NEON entailing Canadian contribution to the United Nations Security Council sanctions placed on North Korea.

He added that Canada was also intent on cooperating more closely with the South Korean government to improve the human rights situation in North Korea.

The prime minister dedicated a few minutes to honor the South Korea’s fight for democracy in his address, delivered a day before the anniversary of the country’s pro-democracy movement that began in the city of Gwangju in 1980.

The Gwangju Democratic Uprising 43 years ago “serves as a reminder that democracy in Korea didn’t happen by accident,” he said. “Your democracy is resilient, it is hard won, with the blood and sacrifice of Koreans.”

He went on, “Democracy never happens by accident. It certainly doesn’t continue without effort. At its best, democracy will always be stronger than authoritarianism.”

He said that as the world faces a “moment of uncertainty,” authoritarianism is gaining ground.

Trudeau said antagonistic states around the world were using economic interdependence of Canada and countries with shared valued and interests “for their own geopolitical advantage.”

“You are front-line witnesses to regular military provocations by North Korea that cause instability on the peninsula, in the North Pacific region, and around the world.”

He said to counter threats to the regional security, the two countries “have to continue defending peace, human rights, and the rules-based international order.”

The prime minister said that he and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol have agreed to “upgrade our relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership with shared priorities based on common values and interests.”

He added that at the core of his discussion later the same day with Yoon will be the countries’ joint dedication to build clean economies.

“Canada and Korea are neighbors across the Pacific. Our trade corridor should be a green corridor,” he said.

Trudeau, whose Seoul trip comes as the two countries mark the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties, called the two nations “the best of friends.”

“I’m proud to be the latest Canadian to celebrate this friendship, but I’m here to tell you it’s no longer enough to be friends. We need to be the best of friends,” he told an applauding Assembly.

“Our citizens need us to think strategically and act with urgency. In this consequential moment, we must find solutions together as the best of friends.”

The Assembly in Seoul is due to pass a special resolution celebrating 60 years of ties with Canada, South Korean speaker Kim Jin-pyo told the Canadian prime minister in a meeting held the same day.

“Our friendship goes back a long way. About a hundred years ago, Canadian missionaries came here and built schools and hospitals. In the Korean War, Canadians fought alongside us to defend democracy and freedom. We will remember their sacrifice and service forever,” the speaker said.

Trudeau is the first head of state to address the Assembly since US President Donald Trump in 2017.