OTTAWA, Nov 29 (Reuters) - An international meeting in Canada on North Korea in January is designed to produce “better ideas” to ease tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests, Canadian officials said on Wednesday.
A Canadian source who declined to be identified said that up to 16 foreign ministers were scheduled to meet in Vancouver, although North Korea itself will not be invited to the event. Canada announced the meeting on Tuesday and said it would be co-hosted by the United States.
“By discussing the various options out on the table, by listening to ... local wisdom of the regions and especially (to those) who live a bit closer to Korea than we do, you can come up with some better ideas,” Andrew Leslie, parliamentary secretary to Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, told reporters.
Early on Wednesday, North Korea tested its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile yet, putting the continental United States within range and increasing pressure on U.S. President Donald Trump to deal with the nuclear-armed nation.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who came to power in late 2015 promising the world that “Canada is back”, last week said he had discussed with Cuban President Raul Castro in 2016 the possibility of working together to address the crisis.
“These are the kinds of things where Canada can, I think, play a role that the United States has chosen not to play, this past year,” Trudeau said, referring to Trump’s isolationist global stance.
Defense experts say North Korean missiles aimed at the United States could land off course in Canada.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan told reporters Canada was looking at the threat extremely seriously but declined to say what military counter measures he might be take.
“We believe the diplomatic solution is the way to go - we feel there is hope for it. Nonetheless we will ... keep the pressure on,” Sajjan said.
In the meantime, Canada’s relations with North Korea appear to be warming up slightly.
In September, a Canadian diplomat said the North Koreans “perceive us as not an enemy and therefore potentially a friend”. Canada established diplomatic relations with North Korea in 2001 but suspended them in 2010.
One former Canadian diplomat, Marius Grinius, said in an interview that Ottawa had the chance to play a positive role.
“There are a lot of things we could be doing if the decision is taken to really get back into the game”, said Grinius, who was cross-accredited to Pyongyang in 2005 while serving as ambassador to South Korea, which is still technically at war with its neighbor because the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice. (Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Grant McCool)