Rex Tillerson visited Canada for the first time as secretary of state on Tuesday, where he again emphasized the need to prepare for talks with North Korea over de-nuclearization, although “we can’t talk unless North Korea is ready to talk,” he said.
Tillerson and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland also discussed border issues, unrest in Venezuela and the plight of Rohingya refugees. They held a joint press conference after their meeting, which you can watch in the above video.
On North Korea, Freeland emphasized that “Canada and the United States are aligned with the rest of the world in our position that these provocative and illegal acts cannot be tolerated.”
In a move to demonstrate international solidarity, the U.S. and Canada will co-host a meeting on Jan. 16 on North Korea’s efforts to develop a nuclear weapon, she said. Foreign ministers from around the world, including South Korea and Japan, will join the conference in Vancouver to advance a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.
Tillerson said they would discuss how to improve the effectiveness of the current pressure campaign and what additional steps can be taken. He once again emphasized the necessity of preparing for talks. “I think it’s important to remind everyone the whole reason the pressure campaign exists and the reason the U.N. Security Council passed two very strong unanimous resolutions are to lead to talks,” he said.
“Now, we can’t talk unless North Korea is ready to talk. And I think as we’ve indicated, we’re waiting for them to indicate a readiness to talk. But what’s important for North Korea to know is that this pressure campaign will not abate. We will not be rolling any of it back. It will only be intensified as time goes by.”
When asked by a reporter about the mixed messages from the White House about negotiating with North Korea, Tillerson said “what the White House has merely observed is that North Korea has not exhibited a willingness to talk.
“The White House supports diplomatic talks. The observation that’s being made — and I would agree with the observation — is we’re waiting on North Korea to come to that conclusion. And until they do, the pressure campaign will only intensify,” he said.
Tillerson also spoke of the need to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, which was implemented in 1994. “We talked about how other events in the world and other trading relationships in the world have emerged over the last 30 years that are having an impact on how NAFTA performs. Some of these impacts come from other third parties that are trading with each of our nations, and so it is timely and right that we should re-examine that agreement and bring it up to date and modernize it for today’s global trading balances.”
He stressed that Canada is “an extremely important foreign market for U.S. goods. … Millions of jobs in both of our countries depend upon our partnership.”
In addition, they discussed the ordeal of the Rohingya refugees, who have fled violence in Myanmar by the hundreds of thousands to seek safety in Bangladesh.
Freeland praised Tillerson for raising the exodus directly with Myanmar’s leaders. “This is ethnic cleansing, it is a crime against humanity, and it is absolutely essential that the perpetrators be held to account,” she said.