Rex Tillerson Travels to Canada to Discuss North Korea

"We believe a diplomatic solution to the crisis is essential and possible," Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland (left) told a joint press conference with visiting US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (right)
AFP Lars Hagberg

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in Ottawa, Canada, on Tuesday to meet with Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and other high-ranking officials to discuss, among other issues, a multilateral approach to the North Korean nuclear crisis.

A senior State Department official explained in a briefing Monday that Tillerson will “continue the dialogue on our mutual prosperity, defense, and security” with Canadian counterparts and “discuss our shared concerns on global issues, including North Korea and the ongoing situation in Ukraine.” The official also noted that the two top diplomats are expected to discuss the ongoing socialist crisis in Venezuela and how to effectively use the uniform outcry against the Maduro regime throughout the Americas to enact change.

Reuters reported last week that Tillerson would make the trip specifically in anticipation of a plan to establish multilateral talks featuring the powers active during the Korean War. Canadian officials are encouraging the nations officially part of the “United Nations Command Sending States” group to unite and find a way to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear program. Among these states would be the United States and Canada, of course, but also France, New Zealand, and Philippines. North Korea and its patron state China would necessarily have to be involved in such talks.

Leftist Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also called for inviting rogue states like Cuba into North Korea talks. Trudeau, who praised late dictator Fidel Castro as a “legendary revolutionary” after his death last year, told reporters this month that he had “surprising conversations” with successor Raúl Castro about the North Korean nuclear crisis.

“And can we pass along messages through surprising conduits?” he asked. “There hasn’t been huge amount of discussion around that, but it was a topic of conversation when I met President Raul Castro last year.”

The State Department confirmed on Monday that North Korea would “certainly come up” during Tillerson’s trip. “We’ve got a good partnership with Canada on the issue. Secretary Tillerson and Minister Freeland talk about it quite regularly. We are going to convene this conference jointly with Canada,” a senior State Department official stated.

That official suggested that Japan, South Korea, and “other key affected countries” would be invited to said talks.

Canadian media suggest that these talks could begin as recently as next month.

During remarks last week, Tillerson suggested that North Korea itself could be part of multilateral talks, or any talks, with “no precondition.”

“Let’s just meet, and we can talk about the weather if you want,” he said during a talk at the Atlantic Council-Korea Foundation Forum last week. “Talk about whether it’s going to be a square table or a round table, if that’s what you are excited about. But can we at least sit down and see each other face to face, and then we can begin to lay out a map, a roadmap of what we might be willing to work towards.”

The White House later rejected the idea of such talks and stated that Trump administration policy towards North Korea had not changed.

North Korea, through its state-run media outlets, has rejected the possibility of abandoning its illegal nuclear weapons program, arguing that the United States threatens them enough to necessitate the program. In commentary on Tuesday, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) claimed that the Trump administration was developing “microwave weapons targeted on the rockets of the DPRK.”

“Its noisy talk about ‘war’ is not surprising as Trump once cried out for totally destroying the DPRK,” KCNA suggested. “But it is something which cannot be overlooked that it has put up the card of non-lethal weapon use all of a sudden.”

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.