Speech at First Plenary Session – Political and Security Matters, 24th Annual Meeting of the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum

Chair, fellow parliamentarians, this afternoon’s debate on regional peace and security provides us with an important opportunity to address recent developments on the Korean Peninsula.

As we are all aware, reports indicate that North Korea conducted a fourth nuclear test on January 6th.

In the face of such recklessness, the only response is one of unequivocal condemnation of actions that pose a serious threat to regional and international peace and security.

Here, there is no ambiguity or room for interpretation.

North Korea’s continued pursuit of a nuclear weapons program contravenes its international obligations, including those enshrined in numerous resolutions of the United Nations Security Council.

This latest nuclear test is another example of the dangerous and provocative behaviour of the North Korean regime, which is not limited to its international conduct.

The North Korean regime continues to act in ways that are contrary to the best interests of its own people.

Numerous reports have documented the regime’s systematic violations of the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of its citizens. Indeed, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea – which issued its report in 2014 – found that a wide array of crimes against humanity have been committed and continue to take place in North Korea.

As detailed by the Commission of Inquiry, these crimes include extermination, enslavement, torture, the forcible transfer of populations, and the enforced disappearance of persons. To quote from the report: “The gravity, scale and nature of these violations reveal a State that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.”

During two visits to the country in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I saw first-hand the deprivations of everyday life in North Korea, and the all-encompassing authoritarianism of its government.

It is a society that is both held back and threatened by its own rulers.

This wanton disregard for international law – in the realms of security and human rights – necessitate a concerted and comprehensive response on the part of the international community.

Our Annual Meeting is a forum in which we can add our voices and our legislative perspective to such efforts.

In this regard, the Canadian delegation is proud to be sponsoring a draft resolution entitled: Achieving Denuclearization, Stability and Peace on the Korean Peninsula.

The resolution notably:

– appeals to North Korea to abandon all nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner;

– expresses support for efforts that can enhance inter-Korean relations and establish conditions of lasting peace and stability; and,

– urges North Korea to respond quickly and credibly to the humanitarian and human rights concerns of the international community.

As was evident in the international reaction to the nuclear test of January 6th, North Korea’s conduct concerns us all.

That is why it is so important to acknowledge the common position – that North Korea will never be accepted as a nuclear state – reflected in all three draft resolutions submitted on this topic. The resolutions from Japan and the Republic of Korea are both, in my view, powerful statements of principle and practical action. And I am confident that the Working Group on Peace and Security and the Drafting Committee will be able to arrive at a strong final text for our consideration.

Parliamentarians, as I mentioned, I have been to North Korea. I didn’t like what I saw in 1988 and I don’t like what I see today.

It is not an accident of repetition that the situation on the Korean Peninsula has become what could be described as a perennial concern of APPF Annual Meetings.

Such recurrent attention, through the resolutions adopted by this forum, contributes to the reinforcement of norms of responsible state behaviour. It also reiterates our resolve, as parliamentarians, to hold North Korea accountable for its international obligations.

Chair, colleagues, I look forward to engaging with all of you on these important issues throughout the week.

Thank you.