U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland announced Wednesday they will co-host a meeting in Vancouver next month about the increasingly erratic behaviour by a nuclear North Korea.
The two top diplomats told reporters most of the countries who fought in the 1950-53 Korean War have been invited to participate in the discussions in the B.C. city on Jan. 16, 2018. Those countries, tentatively dubbed the “Vancouver Group,” are part of an aggressive diplomatic campaign designed to force the rogue regime to the negotiation table and avoid devastating military action.
“We continue to find ways to advance the pressure campaign against North Korea, and send a unified message from the international community: ‘We will not accept you as a nuclear weapons nations.’ “We share one goal, full and complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” Tillerson said.
He said this display of solidarity sends a message to North Korea that the rest of world is prepared to talk. “We can’t talk unless North Korea is ready to talk. We’re waiting for them to indicate a readiness to talk — this pressure campaign will not abate. We will not be rolling any of it back,” the former Exxon Mobil CEO said.
Tillerson is the highest-ranking official in the Trump administration to visit Canada. Despite precedent in recent years, U.S. President Donald Trump did not make his first trip abroad to Canada.
Tillerson first sat down with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, a meeting that went some 25 minutes longer than scheduled. He then met with the cabinet committee on Canada-U.S. relations. He will have a tête-à-tête with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later this evening.
Tillerson and Freeland are said to have a productive working relationship as evidenced by the warm embrace the two shared as the secretary of state arrived at the Ottawa airport’s VIP terminal. “I am delighted to be in Canada, and I appreciate the above-freezing temperatures in Ottawa, I understand, so thank you for that,” Tillerson joked, referencing the warmer than usual weather in the nation’s capital.
“I really look forward to our discussions today. It’s a very important relationship between the U.S. and Canada, a strong relationship, and we look forward to strengthening that through these talks,” he said. Freeland said global issues are top of mind, but also “some issues concerning our bilateral relationship.”
The two countries are preparing to host a meeting of interested nations to discuss North Korea in early 2018. The meeting is expected to be held in Vancouver. Canada is pitching the conference as a way to jump-start diplomatic talks as the so-called six-party talks — South Korea, North Korea, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia — broke off in 2009.
Tillerson’s visit comes amid uncertainty about the secretary’s position in Trump’s cabinet. Numerous news reports have suggested Trump is poised to dump the former Exxon Mobil chairman in favour of Mike Pompeo, the C.I.A. director.