Intervention of Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper in the Think Tank 2022 Forum

Intervention of Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada (2006-2015), in the ISCP Session of the Think Tank 2022 Forum on 1 February, 2022.

Merci beaucoup. Thank you, Ambassador Hill. Greetings to my fellow panellists and presenters, and to the audience joining us from around the world. I’m honoured to once again be here with the Universal Peace Federation, on this occasion for think tank 2022, this global dialogue to promote the peaceful reunification of the Korean peninsula.

I congratulate the UPF for once again assembling a renowned group of global speakers and experts, … and for tackling this subject through the seven peace associations representing the political, business, spiritual, media, academic, cultural, and women’s perspectives.  

At a time when Russia is threatening Ukraine, and China is threatening Taiwan, it’s too easy to lose sight of the ongoing challenges of the Korean peninsula, but as North Korea engages in yet another round of missile tests, and South Korea witnesses a bare-knuckles national election campaign, we’re reminded that this issue is always worthy of attention. And not just because of actions within the Koreas, but because this issue uniquely engages many of the world’s key players.

In Korea’s immediate neighbourhood are two of Asia’s greatest powers, China and Japan, and two other, major global powers are just as close, Russia, which sits on the border to the north, and America, whose forces remain present in the south. So, as long as Korean division and hostility endure, the wider peace of the world will also be in question. So, how to address this?

If you’ll allow me, I’ll summarize my thoughts around the six points I have used on a number of occasions on this issue.

First, on South Korea. South Koreans know in their hearts something that much of the international community does not want to admit - that true peace on the Korean peninsula will mean the end of the North Korean state. Why? because Korea is one nation, and, if given the choice, Koreans will choose a society like the South; because the Republic of Korea is the society that free Koreans have already chosen. But this is all the more reason, as I’ve said before, for you as South Koreans to have “peace in your hearts.” Even if North Korea does not want peace, even if peace is unlikely, peace is what free Koreans want and what all free peoples want, so never give up on it. In this regard, I commend President Moon for using his time in office to pursue a peace treaty with Kim Jong-un, even if, as I expect, he will ultimately be unsuccessful in that effort.

Second, on North Korea. The peace South Koreans must have in their hearts must be matched by deep caution in their heads when it comes to North Korea. Even after round after round of peace and nuclear disarmament efforts, North Korea’s dangerous weapons development continues. How should South Korea and the world react? Do not be provoked but be certain that the South and its allies have sufficient defences and countermeasures against any possible attack from the North. Just as the peaceful re-unification of the Korean peninsula must occur, a re-unification by invasion must never be allowed to happen.

Third, when it comes to the wider international community, it is critical to understand the role of the People’s Republic of China in this ongoing conflict and hold it accountable. The Chinese will claim that their control over the north and the Kim family is limited, but, from the Korean war forward, the PRC’s support has been critical to their endurance. Ask yourself, if the DPRK ever threatened the PRC in the way it threatens its other neighbours, how long would it really survive?

Fourth, minimize the involvement of Vladimir Putin and his Russian federation in any dialogue. Putin’s Russia is a global power, but only in the sense of being a powerful destabilizer in the world. Putin’s Russia is a disrupter, a hacker, and a mercenary, and it’s unlikely to ever be a positive contributor to the evolution of the Korean peninsula.

Fifth, stay close to your allies, especially the United States. Without a close relationship with America, South Korea’s existence, as a free and democratic society, would be at real risk from the North and from China, so do not take the United States for granted. The desire of the American people to lessen their global burdens is very real and, if the wrong signals were sent, the Republic of Korea could find itself vulnerable.

Sixth, do not forget your many other friends in the world. The Republic of Korea is admired as one of the most successful countries in modern history. It is a model democracy, a desirable economic partner, and a positive contributor to global affairs. That is how the government I led saw the Republic of Korea, and why we deepened our relationship with the successful negotiation of a free-trade agreement with President Park’s administration in 2014. But among your potentially even greater friends is one of your neighbours, the state of Japan. As terrible as the history between your countries has been, seek reconciliation with the Japanese. Your peoples have much in common today and will have even more in common in the future.  

Ladies and gentlemen, once again, I want to thank this organization, the Universal Peace Federation, Dr. Moon, and your senior leadership for all that you do to further this noble cause, and for inviting me again today. I’m optimistic that I will see many of you in a couple of weeks in South Korea, the first time that this will be possible since the pandemic broke out. In the meantime, I look forward to the rest of our discussion. Merci beaucoup.

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