North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, Cambodia's Foreign Minister Prak Sokhon, Canada's Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, Brunei Darrussalam's Foreign Minister Lim Jock Seng, Bangladesh's Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali, Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi link arms during the Gala Dinner of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) and Related Meetings in Manila, Philippines, August 6, 2017. (Mark Cristino/REUTERS/Pool)

Canada to discuss North Korea and Rohingya crisis at ASEAN meeting in Singapore


Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland plans to discuss security threats posed by North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and Myanmar’s brutal crackdown on its Rohingya Muslim minority during her three-day visit to Singapore later this week, according to Global Affairs Canada.

Freeland will be in Singapore from Thursday through Saturday to participate in the annual Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-Canada Post-Ministerial Conference and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), Global Affairs Canada announced Tuesday.

The ASEAN meeting comes nearly two months after the historic summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the city-state.

In addition to the 10 ASEAN member countries, delegations from China, Japan, India, the U.S., Australia, Russia and the European Union will also take part in the meeting.

Freeland will get a chance to rub shoulders with Russia’s, North Korea’s and Myanmar’s representatives, although it’s not clear whether she has planned any bilateral talks with these countries.

“As a Pacific nation, Canada is proud to stand with our Southeast Asian partners to advance peace, security and prosperity for people in the region and globally,” Freeland said in a statement. “We will continue to work together to protect and promote our shared values and interests.”

The ARF meeting, scheduled for Saturday, is one of the few international forums in which North Korea takes part.

While North Korea, which is sending its foreign affairs minister to Singapore, is likely to be high on the agenda of the meeting, the primary focus is expected to be on the escalating U.S.-China trade war.

Freeland’s trip also comes as the Liberal government is working to diversify its international trade portfolio amid Ottawa’s growing concerns over its own trade war with Washington, Canada’s most important trading partner.

Promising market

Residents welcome Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (not in the picture) during his visit at Likhaan Center for Women’s Health, a non-governmental organisation in Tondo city, metro Manila, Philippines November 12, 2017. (Romeo Ranoco/REUTERS)

With a combined population of 633 million people and GDP of over US$2.4 trillion ASEAN represents a potential growth market for Canada’s exports.

In 2017, Canada-ASEAN merchandise trade reached a value of $23.3 billion, making ASEAN countries Canada’s sixth largest trading partner.

While not a full-fledged member of ASEAN, which comprises of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, Canada is one of 10 nations designated as an ASEAN dialogue partner.

In 2009, Canada appointed an ambassador to ASEAN and adopted the Joint Declaration on the ASEAN-Canada Enhanced Partnership. In 2016, under the current Liberal government, Canada opened its dedicated mission to ASEAN and appointed its first dedicated ambassador to the rapidly growing regional block.

Freeland has also been invited to deliver a lecture at the International Institute for Strategic Studies on Thursday, prior to the ASEAN meeting.

The IISS bills itself as a forum for international leaders to discuss security and geopolitical issues.

In her remarks, Freeland is expected to address how Canada and the international community can do to support and renew the international rules-based order, officials said.

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