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Canada - Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

North Korea (also known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea)

Since the time of the Korean War, North Korea has presented serious challenges to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. Canada calls on North Korea to live up to its stated desire for positive relations with the international community and to accept the obligations of peaceful and responsible behavior that are incumbent upon it as a member of the United Nations. Canada also urges North Korea to respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of its citizens.  Canada’s long-term objective is for North Korea to commit to denuclearization and adhere to its international non-proliferation obligations. This would include abandoning its nuclear and ballistic missile programs in compliance with its obligations under relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Bilateral Relations

Diplomatic relations between Canada and North Korea were established in 2001, on the premise that engagement offers the best prospect for bringing North Korea into the international community and for promoting human rights. However, North Korea’s more recent pattern of aggressive actions has led Canada to impose increasing restrictions on the relationship. In October 2010, the Government of Canada announced the adoption of a Controlled Engagement Policy toward North Korea. Under this policy, official bilateral contact with the North Korean government is limited to subjects concerning: (1) regional security concerns; (2) the human rights and humanitarian situation in North Korea; (3) inter-Korean relations; and (4) consular issues. All government-to-government cooperation and communication on topics not covered under the Controlled Engagement Policy has been suspended.

In addition, in August 2011, the Government of Canada adopted economic sanctions against North Korea under the Special Economic Measures Act. These sanctions are in addition to existing sanctions passed under the United Nations Act. The Special Economic Measures (DPRK) Regulations were enacted to reinforce the message to the North Korean government that its aggressive actions are unacceptable. Canada's sanctions on North Korea are among the toughest in the world and include a ban on all imports from and exports to North Korea, with certain humanitarian exemptions. 

The Canadian Ambassador resident in Seoul is responsible for relations with North Korea, while North Korea's Permanent Representative to the UN in New York is accredited to Canada.

For additional information on sanctions against North Korea, please consult the website Canadian Economic Sanctions – Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Human Rights

Canada remains gravely concerned about North Korea’s egregious human rights violations, and has been very engaged in defending human rights in North Korea.  Canada has regularly raised issues of human rights and human security with North Korean officials, urging North Korea to abide by international human rights standards and to allow visits by UN Special Rapporteurs. In March 2013, Canada co-sponsored the Human Rights Council resolution establishing a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights in North Korea and renewing the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in North Korea. At the United Nations General Assembly in November 2014, Canada co-sponsored a resolution expressing serious concern with the situation of human rights in North Korea, which took note of the sobering findings of the COI’s final report, urged the North Korean regime to respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of its citizens, and emphasized the need to ensure accountability for perpetrators of human rights abuses.

In 2011, the Department’s inaugural John Diefenbaker Defender of Human Rights and Freedom Award was presented to Reverend Benjamin H. Yoon, representing the Citizen’s Alliance for North Korean Human Rights. The Citizens’ Alliance for North Korean Human Rights works to draw attention to the difficulties faced by North Koreans, to improve their lives, and to offer educational programs and social support to North Korean refugees settling in the Republic of Korea.

Humanitarian Assistance

Since 2005, Canada has provided over $20 million in humanitarian assistance to North Korea, all of it through experienced international organizations such as the World Food Program and the Red Cross to respond to critical needs in North Korea. Canada will only provide humanitarian assistance to North Korea where the provision of such assistance is deemed appropriate.

Six-Party Talks

Negotiations to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula began in 2003 under the framework of the Six-Party Talks, which include China (chair), North Korea, South Korea, Japan, Russia and the United States. The Six-Party Talks covered phased denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, economic aid to North Korea, the eventual normalization of Pyongyang’s relations with the United States and Japan, and a peace and security architecture for Northeast Asia. The process has stalled since North Korea’s announcement on April 14, 2009, that it would no longer acknowledge the Six-Party Talks, and that it was embarking on a path of re-nuclearization.

 Since then, North Korea has engaged in continued provocations, including two missile tests in 2012, North Korea’s third nuclear test in February 2013, and the recent restart of operations at the Yongbyon nuclear complex.

While North Korea has periodically indicated a willingness to resume dialogue on nuclear issues without pre-conditions, the country has not taken concrete steps toward denuclearization, a key stumbling block for the restart of talks. Canada continues to strongly support peaceful negotiation among all concerned parties as the only way to resolve peace and security issues on the Korean peninsula.

January 2015

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