The North Korean Crisis: Behind The War Of Words, Canada Is Working Towards A Diplomatic Solution


Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un’s war of words has been making lots of noise in the past months. With both leaders using violent language, loud insults, and big threats, tensions have been escalating and catching most of the media’s attention. Yet, there is more to the handling of the North Korean crisis than Trump’s provocations. While the United States is one of the key actors of the conflict, other nations are taking an active part in managing the crisis with a more diplomatic approach, and surprisingly, Canada is one them.

Canada does not have a major role, with the key players being Asian nations, including North Korea, China, South Korea, Japan, and the United States. But as the United States’ neighbour and close ally, Canada can also offer a different and precious contribution to end or, at least, contain the crisis. With Trump, the U.S has taken a very aggressive posture with regards to the North Korean matter. Rejecting appeasement policies has naturally led to a dangerous escalation of tensions, which needs to be toned down to avoid a disastrous outcome.

With that said, the Trudeau administration seems to be embracing an important mediation role in the conflict. While the nation has limited contact with North Korea, it still maintains diplomatic relations with Pyongyang since 2001. According to CBC News, “the Canadian government is known to have had several interactions with the North Koreans in recent months.” Nonetheless, Trudeau said that his country was also likely to “pass along messages through surprising conduits.” The Canadian Prime Minister has also hinted at their possible diplomatic arrangements with the Cuban government, even if the said arrangements remain unclear. In spite of this, Canada has good relations with Cuba, which could play an important behind-the-scenes role, with Trudeau highlighting that “as communist regimes, Cuba and North Korea do have ‘decent diplomatic relations.’” Meanwhile, Canada will further its diplomatic role by co-hosting a summit of foreign ministers in Vancouver with the U.S. in January in which they will work to seek progress on the nuclear crisis. As such, while the Canadian role is limited, it can help downplay the ongoing escalation through essential diplomatic discussions.

Furthermore, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, recalled that Canada and the U.S. “are aligned with the rest of the world in our position that (North Korean) provocative and illegal acts cannot be tolerated.” But, unlike the U.S., Canada does not reject an appeasement approach and recognizes the importance of diplomatic solutions. In this respect, Freeland also said that “(Canada) believes a diplomatic solution to the crisis is essential and possible.” Last month, Trudeau added that his nation can “play a role that the U.S. has chosen not to play,” which means being a new diplomatic leader of the nuclear conflict. In addition, Alex Wilner, a Professor of international affairs at Carleton University said that “diplomatic solutions are far and few between, though I still believe all major players are keen to avoid open conflict between North Korea and the United States.” He also added that “If that’s true, then there’s still room — and a need for — diplomacy.”

Nevertheless, as Marius Grinius, the former Canadian Director-General of International Security Policy, rightly pointed out, “having long been missing in action, however, Canada will have to work hard to re-establish its credibility and expertise on North Korean issues which is an important building block in reasserting Canada’s political and security commitment to the Asia-Pacific region.” That said, this is a new challenge for Canada, which could help the world while benefiting Canada, who could stand to become a new diplomatic leader.