By Jorge Barrera
APTN National News
OTTAWA-The U.S. asked Canada to help finance a deal with North Korea aimed at getting the reclusive regime to stop its nuclear program, according to U.S. diplomatic cables obtained by APTN National News.
Former Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, however, appears to have failed to convince the federal cabinet to chip in on the deal that would see North Korea wind-down its nuclear program in exchange for shipments of heavy fuel oil.
The cables also reveal that the Canadian government told North Korean diplomats they couldn’t set up an embassy in Ottawa.
CBC-Radio Canada also received the same batch of cables.
WikiLeaks has already released over 2,000 diplomatic cables dealing with Canada.
While North Korea has not recently registered as one the federal government’s top foreign affairs files, behind the scenes it appears that Canada is in active discussions with the U.S. on how to handle the Stalinist state, the cables reveal.
The George W. Bush Administration even asked the Stephen Harper government to contribute financially to a deal giving North Korea 1 million tonnes of heavy fuel oil in exchange for it to stop developing its nuclear program.
The request from the U.S. came in late 2008 to help pay for the fuel shipments that were part of a deal hashed out between North Korea and the U.S., Russia, China, South Korea and Japan in September 2007 as part of the Six Party Talks.
Cannon, however, appears to have tried and failed to get the federal cabinet to approve paying for the heavy fuel oil.
According to a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, Canada has not contributed to heavy fuel oil purchases for North Korea since 2002.
“Canada did not make a contribution to the purchase of heavy fuel oil for the DPRK after 2002,” said Pierre Florea.
Canada did contribute about $6.82 million in heavy fuel oil purchases for North Korea between 1995 and 2002 through the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO), said Florea.
KEDO “terminated its projects” with the country in 2005, Florea said.
But in December 2008, the U.S. asked Canada to help pay for some of the heavy oil shipments, according to a “confidential” U.S. diplomatic cable.
The cable, called an “action request,” also shows that the U.S. placed a high priority on the request and put it on the scheduled agenda for a meeting between then-U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Cannon later that month.
“To underscore the importance of this issue to the USG, Embassy recommends that a Canadian HFO contribution definitely be part of the Secretary’s December 12 meeting agenda with FM Cannon,” the Dec. 8 cable said.
U.S. officials, however, doubted Cannon would be successful in convincing cabinet to find money to meet the request.
“Canada’s current obsession with domestic political manoeuvring (which led to a temporary suspension of Parliament on Dec. 4) and the government’s hesitation about posting Canada’s first budget deficit in over a decade will make it more difficult than usual for the government to launch a new program like this,” the cable said.
Harper prorogued Parliament in December 2008 to avoid a non-confidence vote.
The cable noted that Cannon ‘was intent on finding a way to be helpful’ and wanted to try and fast-track the request through Treasury Board.
“Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Assistant Deputy Minister for Asia and Africa Ken Sundquist confirmed…that he had briefed…Cannon on a possible contribution for heavy fuel oil for North Korea and its importance to the Six Party Talks,” the cable said. “Cannon ‘wants to be helpful.'”
The cables also show Canada and the U.S. are engaged in frequent discussions on dealing with North Korea.
In one cable, from 2009, Canada claims to stake an “even harsher line” than the Americans on the regime before the UN Human Rights Council.
“Although Canada intends to ‘call a spade a spade’ with ‘credible and meaningful’ recommendations to the DPRK, DFAIT believes that a judicious selection of recommendations that are ‘implementable with the possibility of acceptance’ has the best chance of success, given the typically defensive posture of the DPRK on human rights issues,” the Dec. 3, 2009 cable said.
Canada’s recommendations for the Dec. 7 UN Human Rights Council’s “periodic review” of North Korea were to focus on ending public executions and torture, ending forced labour and arbitrary detention, allowing for freedom of association, movement and religion, along with and giving North Koreans access to drinking water and food.
An older cable, however, notes that Canada “has little leverage on its own” with North Korea and that “Canada-North Korea” relations were at a “standstill.” The Canadian government even told North Korean diplomats not to bother searching for Ottawa properties to build an embassy.
“North Korean officials were searching for an Embassy site in Ottawa, but the GoC asked them not to return when they left in December,” said a diplomatic cable from March 13, 2003.