Canada, US to host North Korea crisis summit of foreign ministers on Jan 16

Canada and the United States said on Tuesday they will co-host a meeting of foreign ministers in Vancouver in January to demonstrate international solidarity against North Korea's continued nuclear and missile tests.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Canada's Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland take part in a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Canada's Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland take part in a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.PHOTO: REUTERS

OTTAWA (AFP) - Canada and the United States announced on Tuesday (Dec 19) they will host a summit of foreign ministers in Vancouver on Jan 16, including envoys from Japan and South Korea, to seek progress on the North Korean nuclear crisis.

"We believe a diplomatic solution to the crisis is essential and possible," Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland told a joint press conference with visiting US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Mr Tillerson said the meeting would seek to further increase pressure on North Korea to come to the table to negotiate an end to its nuclear programme.

This could include "other steps that could be taken to put additional pressure on the regime in North Korea", as well as preparing for the prospects of talks, he said.

"We (will) continue to find ways to advance the pressure campaign against North Korea," Mr Tillerson said, "to send North Korea a unified message from the international community that we will not accept you as... a nuclear weapons nation, and that all of us share one policy and one goal - the full complete verifiable denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula."

"It's all intended to lead to talks. Otherwise we wouldn't need to do this. We would just go straight to the military option," he said.

"The White House supports diplomatic talks," Mr Tillerson added, dismissing suggestions of a rift between US President Donald Trump and his chief diplomat.

The so-called Vancouver Group will also include Australia, Belgium, Britain, Colombia, Ethiopia, France, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand and Turkey.

Throughout the afternoon, Mr Tillerson and Ms Freeland also discussed Canada-US border security, North American defence, energy and environmental cooperation, and the ongoing renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), which binds the two countries with Mexico to form the world's second-largest trading bloc after the EU.

They discussed the plight of the Rohingya in Myanmar and "the potential for a peacekeeping mission" in Ukraine.

Ms Freeland will travel to Ukraine to meet with government officials on Wednesday.

As well, said Ms Freeland, she and Mr Tillerson considered "the crisis in Venezuela and what actions we can take individually, together and in cooperation with the Lima group... to address the deteriorating political, economic and humanitarian situation there."

Canada hosted foreign ministers of 12 countries of the Americas in October to try to find ways to cool the fierce power struggle that had been raging for months between President Nicolas Maduro's left-wing nationalist government and the centre-right opposition.

Later Tuesday, Mr Tillerson was to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau before heading back to Washington.