Trudeau welcomes North Korea's nuclear testing freeze
Published Saturday, April 21, 2018 5:22PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, April 21, 2018 9:50PM EDT
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has welcomed North Korea’s decision to suspend all nuclear testing as a move in the right direction.
In a surprise announcement, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared that his country "no longer needs" to test its weapons capability.
“A declaration of suspension of nuclear tests is better than a nuclear test,” Trudeau told the Liberal Party convention in Halifax on Saturday. “I think it’s a sign that perhaps things are moving in the right direction.”
Trudeau added that the government has always looked for “diplomatic and political solutions” to the longstanding tensions in the Korean Peninsula.
“I certainly think this is a small, but incremental and perhaps very impactful step in the right direction. I look forward to the bilateral visits between North Korea and South Korea,” Trudeau said.
The announcement comes as a precursor to the summit talks with South Korea and U.S. President Donald Trump, expected in late May or early June.
Trump was quick to react on Twitter, hailing the step as “big progress!”
“North Korea has agreed to suspend all nuclear tests and close up a major test site. This is very good news for North Korea and the world - big progress! Look forward to our summit,” Trump tweeted Friday.
Gordon Houlden, director of the China Institute at the University of Alberta is, however, not confident that Kim will be willing to give up the powerful arsenal so easily.
“(The suspension of missile testing) will certainly last until the summit, assuming the summit goes forward, and it may last well beyond that,” Houlden told CTV News Channel on Saturday.
However, he added that there’s plenty of skepticism over the nuclear freeze, which he pointed out “does not necessarily mean – and probably doesn’t mean – denuclearization.”
To convince Kim to give up the weapons once and for all, Houlden said Kim would likely look to be welcomed back into the international community and for a lifting of all United Nations sanctions. Houlden also suggested North Korea may expect “billions and billions of dollars of aid” due to the poor performance of the North Korean economy.
“Whether that’s a deal that the United States, Japan, South Korea and the other countries with an interest can stomach is another question,” he added.
Houlden added that Trump should be cautious of any North Korean promises ahead of their meeting, and to take negotiations one day at a time.
“I would say, don’t expect to get everything done in one summit, and be very wary of North Korean promises to denuclearize without some very intrusive verification, because they certainly have had a track record of stepping along, we thought, toward denuclearization, and yet, having secret programs to do exactly the opposite. So I’d say, be very wary.”
Bruce MacDonald, a former adviser in the Clinton White House and professor of denuclearization studies, called it “an encouraging signal,” while also expressing caution.
“That train trip that Kim Jong Un took to China, a couple weeks ago, I think very clearly China must have read North Korea the riot act,” he told CTV News Channel.
“They have been squeezing North Korea very hard economically. And I think that if we can offer anything in the economic sphere, which we can withdraw if they violate something, I think that’s a lot of what they’re looking for.”
Peter Emerson, who worked as a White House advisor in the Carter administration, agreed that China is likely behind North Korea’s decision, and the U.S. needs to be careful.
“The North Koreans and the Chinese play a long game, the United States plays a short game and Donald Trump plays an even shorter game,” Emerson said.
“My concern is that we could be led down a long, long path by Trump’s eagerness to have success overseas, his lack of knowledge of history, much less of North Korea, and the promises that ... have never been kept.”
Emerson said he believes “the long game will probably be won by North Korea and China and the United States will be left holding an empty bag.”