Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Honourable members, thank you for the invitation to speak to you today.
Canada, like many other countries, is gravely concerned by North Korea's reckless and provocative actions in pursuit of nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. This concern is not hypothetical. North Korea has now demonstrated a capacity to deliver missiles intercontinentally, with a range that could reach most of North America. In this sense, the threat from North Korea is real, strategic, and global in nature.
The current crisis has been decades in the making. Since it first became known that North Korea was pursuing a nuclear weapons program in the early 1990s, the international community has continuously sought to persuade North Korea to permanently and verifiably denuclearize. These efforts have not yet succeeded.
Although it is difficult to be certain of the reasoning behind the actions of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, we feel that North Korea's behaviour is motivated by a single priority: the survival of the regime.
North Korea has developed and refined a brutal system of internal repression that has systematically deprived its people of fundamental human rights for more than 70 years, for the sole purpose of protecting the regime from internal threats.
The human rights situation in North Korea is absolutely appalling. The regime sees external threats and feels vulnerable. It knows it cannot match the technological and military superiority of South Korea and the United States. It believes that building the capacity to strike North America with nuclear weapons safeguards its own security.
On the peninsula, North Korea and South Korea are technically still in a state of war, and their fragile truce is being strained because of North Korea's plans to equip itself with nuclear weapons and to perfect the delivery systems.
Beyond sanctions and sustained diplomacy, there are no easy or obvious policy alternatives. North Korea's actions represent a grave threat to regional security and a risk to our friends and allies South Korea and Japan as a result of North Korean missile tests, many of which are landing within their exclusive economic zones and at least one test that overflew Japan on August 29. North Korea has abducted citizens of other countries, conducted assassinations abroad, and repeatedly threatened its neighbours with the use of conventional and nuclear weapons.
As disturbing as the thought of a nuclear-armed North Korea is, the citizens of the Republic of Korea have lived under a significant conventional threat from North Korea since World War II. Thousands could die in a matter of minutes should military conflict erupt. Currently the risk is significant that misinterpretation of intent or miscalculation could lead to an unintended escalation, including military conflict. Canada has therefore strongly called for a de-escalation of tensions.
The profound consequences of conflict also underlie Canada's position that the North Korean nuclear issue must be resolved peacefully through dialogue and diplomacy. Minister Freeland has had direct, sustained, and systematic contact with foreign ministers of the United States, China, and South Korea, and in August with the North Korean foreign minister to press our point that this issue needs to be resolved peacefully and diplomatically.
The six-party talks, led by China, with Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Russia, and the United States, were conceived in 2003 to find a peaceful resolution to security concerns resulting from North Korea's nuclear weapons program. Six rounds of those talks resulted in little progress, and in 2009 North Korea announced it would no longer participate in those talks.
North Korea is currently the most significant threat to global nuclear non-proliferation and the regime that tries to prevent it. It is the only country to have conducted nuclear tests in the 21st century, having conducted six tests to date, including its most recent one on September 3. Its nuclear tests contravene its international legal obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, but they also undermine the long-standing norm against nuclear testing established by the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. With the sole exception of North Korea, the rest of the world maintains a voluntary moratorium on nuclear testing.
In 2009 inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency were forced to leave North Korea, and since then have had no direct access to North Korea. They must rely upon things like satellite imagery to monitor the nuclear program there. We therefore cannot say conclusively how much explosive fissile material North Korea has produced or how many nuclear devices it may possess.
North Korea is willing to proliferate dangerous technologies, as demonstrated through its export of ballistic missiles and materials to Iran and Syria and by its involvement in Syria's construction of a covert nuclear reactor. That reactor was destroyed in 2007.
Through increased diplomatic and economic pressures, North Korea must be persuaded to change its current and dangerous course.
Canada played and continues to play a role in striving to change Pyongyang's agenda. In 2010, Canada adopted a controlled engagement policy regarding North Korea in order to draw the regime's attention to the fact that its behaviour has consequences for its bilateral relations. The policy limits official bilateral relations to the following issues: regional security concerns; the humanitarian situation and human rights; relations between Koreans; and, finally, consular matters.
North Korea is increasingly isolated on the international stage. Even the countries that have historically maintained a minimum level of relations with North Korea are breaking or weakening those ties. Canada has also demonstrated leadership by exerting economic pressure on North Korea.
Canada's long-standing unilateral sanctions under the Special Economic Measures Act are among the strictest in the world and include, among others, a ban on all exports and imports, as well as a ban on the delivery of financial services to North Korea and its people.
The Security Council has adopted nine separate resolutions imposing sanctions on North Korea. Despite this, we believe the international community must exert greater pressure and coordinated bilateral and multilateral engagement with Pyongyang so it realizes that the costs of pursuing nuclear weapons outweigh any perceived benefit. To change course from its current dangerous path, we must convince Pyongyang that it can achieve its goals through peaceful diplomatic means.
Canada has called on the Security Council to take further action to constrain North Korea's proliferation efforts, and we insist that all states fully implement those sanctions. The grave and global nature of the threat posed by North Korea to its neighbours, and indeed to international peace and security, merits the significant and continuing efforts of the international community to address this problem.
Thank you very much for your time and attention. After my colleague finishes speaking, I'll be pleased to answer any questions you may have.