N Korea in back-door bid to split Canada from US-led efforts to push denuclearisation

18-Jan-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:28 AM Print This Post

North Korea has mounted a back-door bid to peel Canada away from United States-led efforts to apply “maximum pressure” on Pyongyang through sanctions until it relinquishes its nuclear weapons.

North Korean officials complained that Ottawa was following Washington and not acting as an independent nation in its relations with their country during a rare visit to Canada, the South China Morning Post has learned.

Canadian media reported earlier this month that a five-member delegation from North Korea quietly met with Canadian officials in September, but details of the North Korean side’s perception of Ottawa have not been revealed until now.

Civil society representatives who held a round table with North Korean officials after their discussions with Canadian bureaucrats said they expressed frustration over Canada’s support for US efforts to isolate Pyongyang.

 (South China Morning Post)

(South China Morning Post)

As well as upholding UN sanctions against Pyongyang over its illicit nuclear and missile tests, Ottawa maintains its own sanctions and travel restrictions for the country.

“They felt that Canada was not acting as an independent nation, but basically following the US line,” said Erich Weingartner, the founder of CanKor, a website providing analysis on North Korea.

“In fact, they found the Canadian officials not very well aware of the nuclear history of the Korean peninsula. They emphasized that it was initially the US that introduced nuclear weapons into Korea, that therefore US threats to DPRK security must be removed before the DPRK is ready to denuclearise.”

Weingartner said the delegation included Ri Yong-pil, North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations, and Kwon Jong-gun, its foreign ministry’s director general for North American affairs.

Patti Talbot, head of international outreach at the United Church of Canada, said the North Korean side had complained of a “lack of awareness” within the Canadian government of US responsibility for the nuclear stand-off.

“They seemed to indicate that what they encountered was a focus on the North Korean nuclear arms, without the appreciation of the wider context of American arms and American presence,” said Talbot, referring to the presence of about 28,500 US troops in South Korea.

“I think that on more than one occasion the delegation indicated, certainly verbally, that they are seeking an end to the conflict that they were seeking peace, and that they were looking for possibilities to move forward in a process toward peace.”

Global Affairs Canada, the foreign ministry, did not respond to a request for comment. While the exact substance of the talks with the North Korean delegation remains unclear, the department previously told local media that the dialogue did not change its stance on the need for North Korean denuclearisation.

The revelation of Pyongyang’s behind-the-scenes manoeuvring to gain relief from sanctions comes amid expectations that US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un could hold their second summit as early as February.

During their first summit in Singapore last year, Trump and Kim signed a vaguely worded statement committing Pyongyang to the “complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula”.

But since then, the North has taken few concrete steps toward disarmament as it holds out for “corresponding measures” from Washington in the form of a relaxation of the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” sanctions policy.

With the sides at an impasse, South Korean media reported on Wednesday that North Korea’s lead nuclear negotiator Kim Yong-chol was expected to travel to the US this week for talks with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

South Korea’s Foreign minister Kang Kyung-wha said on Wednesday that Seoul and Washington were discussing possible incentives to offer the North in return for tangible actions towards denuclearisation.

Meanwhile, the Post reported on Monday that Chinese President Xi Jinping was anticipated to travel to the North for the first time in April to hold a summit with Kim.




Category: Korea

Print This Post

Comments are closed.