Remarks by Ambassador Kelly Craft at the Symposium on the Korean Peninsula

As delivered.

Good morning everyone!  First of all, let me thank Deputy Minister Shugart  and Ambassador Shin for inviting us to co-host this important symposium.  We are so pleased to join you as partners in this event today.  The current trends and events in East Asia have dominated the headlines of late, and for good reason. Right now, some of the world’s great dangers reside on the other side of the Pacific. But there are great opportunities too.

To the distinguished panelists who have traveled from near and far to participate, thank you.  The U.S. Embassy in Ottawa is honored to host Mark Lambert from the Department of State and Bruce Klingner from the Heritage Foundation.  We value their expertise and welcome their presence.

As we gather here this morning, as a measure of the importance of the issues we are discussing, there is another forum focusing on North Korea and the region taking place in Washington, DC, sponsored by the Atlantic Council. Speakers there include Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.  This topic, our topic this morning, truly does have the attention of the entire world.

President Trump recently returned from the longest trip an American President has taken to Asia in a quarter of a century – from November 3 to November 14.  Much was accomplished on the trip substantively, but symbolism matters too.  The President wanted to make it clear that the United States remains firmly committed to our longstanding alliances and partnerships in the region and to a free and open Indo-Pacific area.

That commitment includes standing strong with our friends, calling out those who threaten us, and looking out for the best interests of the American people and American businesses.  At the center of these challenges now, of course, is the provocative action of North Korea, as it continues its development of a nuclear weapons program and ICBM missiles with increasing range and payload capacity.

One major goal of President Trump’s trip was to further bolster the international community’s resolve to address the security threats posed by North Korea and its lawless regime. Increasingly, Kim Jong-un is isolated and feeling the pressure from the toughest set of sanctions ever passed by the UN Security Council.  President Trump encouraged our allies around the world to focus on eliminating this danger once and for all.

We have seen enormous progress across the globe to deter North Korea, including those stronger sanctions, increased diplomatic isolation, expulsion of North Korean workers and diplomats, cracking down on illicit funding of its military programs, and severely limiting DPRK trade relationships. The cumulative UN sanctions to date, if properly enforced, will deny North Korea of $2.4 billion in trade revenue.

The EU recently approved a new package of restrictions on the DPRK including a total ban on investment there and on EU exports of oil to the DPRK.  They also tightened restrictions on North Korean workers in the EU and reduced the amount allowed for remittances.

Secretary Tillerson has asked our Chiefs of Mission around the world to press their host governments to take action and put diplomatic and economic pressure on the DPRK.  He has also conducted extensive personal engagements on this issue in nearly all his bilateral engagements.

Our goal for this pressure campaign, which has overwhelming support from the international community, is to persuade the North Korean regime that the only way to achieve the stability it seeks is to abandon its current path and embrace meaningful dialogue about a different future.

We are working towards a negotiated settlement leading to a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.  That is our goal and we’ve made great progress.  But as the discussion today will make clear, we aren’t there yet.

Confronting North Korea requires specific diplomatic and strategic steps in the short term but we all know that the long term security and health of the Indo-Pacific region requires strong economies and political stability as well. The United States and Canada have a shared interest in an Asia that is secure, prosperous, and democratic.

All of that is threatened by the bellicose actions of North Korea. The entire Indo-Pacific region is a possible target, and even the eastern portions of our countries are now potentially within reach of a nuclear capable long-range missile. My government has made clear that the world community must be firm, united, and determined to find a solution. It is a difficult problem, but President Trump has made it clear that failure is not an option.

The President and President Xi (“She”) continued last month to build on the relationship they’ve established based on candid and constructive conversations about issues of shared interest and concern.  They talked about expanding areas of cooperation and finding ventures that can benefit our countries.  As is his style, President Trump also directly and frankly raised points where we have differences with China, not to create conflict but to find ways to solve problems.

The long-standing U.S. bilateral relationship with the Republic of Korea continues to be the linchpin of peace and security on the Korean Peninsula and a key contributor to wider Asia-Pacific regional stability. From the nearly 30,000 US military personnel stationed in South Korea, to the massive joint military exercises we conduct, to the firm commitment to come instantly to the South’s defense should there be any attack from the North, the US-South Korea relationship is truly one of the world’s most important military alliances. Especially right now.

The U.S.-Republic of Korea relationship has successfully endured through numerous Republican and Democratic administrations.  This is one American foreign policy bedrock that has never been a partisan issue.

The United States and the Republic of Korea are allies bound by common ideals of freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law; shared prosperity; and a collective sense of global responsibility.

In light of the security challenges on the Korean Peninsula, our coordination and joint efforts to keep our countries and the region safe are critical.  I assure you that our commitment to the defense of our allies remains ironclad.

The U.S and Korea have also built lasting people-to-people ties.  More than two million Koreans and Korean-Americans live in the United States, making profound economic and social contributions to our country.  More than 70,000 Korean university students study in the United States every year.

Of course, Japan’s role as an ally is also vital. Japan shares deep concerns about North Korea, and is a contributor to the peace, prosperity, and progress in the region. Our bond has been enhanced under the current administration, in part because of the close relationship between President Trump and Prime Minister Abe.  Cooperation between the United States, Japan, and South Korea has also been strengthened under President Trump’s leadership.

And, finally, a word about our closest friend, ally and northern neighbor, Canada.  I often say the U.S.-Canada bilateral relationship is the most consequential of any we have.  It is difficult to overestimate the extent to which we partner with Canada on global issues.  Today is yet another example of that.  Deputy Foreign Minister Shugart and Ambassador Shin just mentioned the Foreign Ministers’ meeting that will take place in early in 2018.  The United States is pleased that Canada is planning to co-host this important conference with us.  We hope it will make progress in dealing with the tensions on the Korean Peninsula.  Canada is also a Pacific nation and its growing ties with Japan, the Republic of Korea, China, and other countries in the region bring with them a stake in ensuring that the region remains stable and prosperous, and continues to move in the direction of greater freedom.

As such, it is fitting that our three countries should partner on this event, which brings together experts from government, academia, and think tanks to discuss the current challenges on the Korean peninsula, and in the broader region.

There’s no doubt that solving the North Korea problem will be difficult. But there is equally no doubt that the vibrant economies and social change in the region are flourishing despite the North Korean menace.  It is testament to the strength of the people that they have continued to dream, build, and prosper under the current grave threat.

I look forward to today’s discussion and hope it leads to practical insights into how our three countries can continue to partner to promote stability, prosperity, and freedom in Northeast Asia and the broader East Asian and Indo-Pacific region.