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 ultimate aim is to see North Korea cease its belligerent behavior, resume adherence to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and comply fully with its comprehensive nuclear safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
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. Canada has implemented the binding decisions of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) under UNSC Resolution 1718 (2006), adopted in response to North Korea’s test of a nuclear weapon on October 9, 2006; and UNSC Resolution 1874 (2009), adopted in response to a nuclear test conducted by North Korea on May 25, 2009. Information on additional Canadian export controls to North Korea is contained in the following section.
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.
On March 26, 2010, a South Korean naval ship, the Cheonan, sank following an explosion in the Yellow Sea. On May 20, the results of a multinational investigation, in which three Canadian naval experts participated, concluded that the Cheonan had been sunk by a North Korean torpedo. Following the release of the investigation results, Prime Minister Harper issued a statement on May 24 in which he announced that Canada would take measures to enhance restrictions on trade, investment and other bilateral relations. In addition, Canada has suspended bilateral senior-level contacts with North Korea.
On October 28, 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 stopped.
In addition, the Government of Canada has adopted on August 11, 2011 economic sanctions against the country 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 came into force to reinforce the message to the North Korean government that its agressive actions, such as the sinking of the Cheonan, are unacceptable.
For additional information on the addition of North Korea to the Area Control List, please consult the website Export Controls to the Democratic People’s Republic of 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 December 2009, North Korea underwent its first review by the UN Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which examined North Korea’s human rights record. Canada’s interactive dialogue with North Korea at the UPR focused on lack of basic freedoms, access to adequate food, drinking water and other basic necessities, humanitarian access, torture, arbitrary detention, labor camps and collective punishment. The Canada’s John Diefenbaker Defender of Human Rights and Freedom Award in 2011 was presented to Reverend Benjamin H. Youn, 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.
Since 2005, Canada has provided $17.7 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 considered appropriate.
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.
On February 29, 2012, the US announced that North Korea had agreed to implement a moratorium on long-range missile launches, nuclear tests, and nuclear activities, including uranium enrichment. North Korea also agreed to the return of IAEA inspectors to Yongbyon to confirm the disabling of the reactor. The US had agreed to provide an initial 240,000 metric tons of nutritional assistance. The result of months of diplomatic engagement with North Korean officials, the deal fell through when North Korea decided to go ahead with their missile launch on April 13, 2012.
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.