EDMONTON — Canada's foreign minister says North Korea's nuclear program poses a "grave threat" to the security of the world and called on the country to fall into line with the international community.
Chrystia Freeland said Canada stands by allies like the United States when they are threatened but ways must be found to de-escalate the situation, which has been marked by North Korean missile tests and heated rhetoric from the country's leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump.
"We need to find ways to pressure and persuade North Korea that the path that it is on ... this path can have no positive ending for North Korea," she said following a meeting with agricultural groups in Edmonton on Friday.
"This is a grave situation. It is a grave threat. ... It's time for North Korea to really cease its actions."
Freeland's remarks came as Trump delivered another warning to Pyongyang that the U.S. military is "locked and loaded" if the regime acts unwisely. Trump doubled down on the tough talk later Friday.
"If he utters one threat in the form of an overt threat — which by the way he has been uttering for years and his family has been uttering for years — or he does anything with respect to Guam or anyplace else that's an American territory or an American ally, he will truly regret it and he will regret it fast," Trump said.
Freeland declined to comment directly on Trump's remarks, but said Canada has been very clear about condemning the actions of North Korea, including its ballistic missile and nuclear programs.
She said when Canada's allies are threatened, including the United States, "we are there."
"Having said that, I think that we need to seek ways to de-escalate the situation," she said.
"It is of absolutely pressing concern for Canada and we are very involved working with our international partners to seek a resolution, a de-escalation, to really get North Korea to understand it must get off of this path which is so destructive for North Korea and the world."
Freeland expressed relief at the release of Canadian pastor Hyeong Soo Lim, who was serving a life sentence in North Korea for anti-state activities. She said Canada had been clear from the outset that Lim had to be released and returned home.
But she said his release and Canada's stand on North Korea's nuclear program are not linked.
"We are very glad that pastor Lim is now safely home," she said. "That is a very separate and distinct issue."
Lim was released after serving more than two years in a North Korean prison. He had been sentenced to hard labour for what it called crimes against the state.
Charges against him included harming the dignity of the supreme leadership, trying to use religion to destroy the North Korean system, disseminating negative propaganda about the North to overseas Koreans, and assisting American and South Korean efforts to help people defect from the north.
Lim, a pastor with the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Mississauga, Ont., was involved in humanitarian projects in North Korea. He was expected to arrive in Canada on Friday or Saturday.
— With a file from The Associated Press
John Cotter, The Canadian Press