South Korean president seeks ties with Canada


OTTAWA — South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol has said Canada is a natural partner in boosting production of electric vehicles as the two countries try to contain the risk of a more aggressive China.

During his one-day visit to Ottawa on Friday, the President praised Canada’s natural resources and research in artificial intelligence, saying they could complement his country’s work in the field of digital technology and semiconductors.

“If we cooperate in this field, (Korean) digital and data technology and Canadian AI technology can work together, I think, and in synergy,” Yoon said in Korean at a conference. press on Parliament Hill.

Mr Yoon has already met Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this month at the Queen’s funeral in London and at the UN General Assembly in New York. From there he took short flights for his day visits to Toronto and Ottawa.

But analysts said Mr Yoon’s visit was more than a matter of convenience, stressing that it was his first official bilateral visit since taking office in March.

Robert Huish, a professor of international development at Dalhousie University, said Canadians often don’t realize how deep their cultural and economic ties have been with South Korea for decades.

« Canada sometimes forgets that it is a Pacific country, and that it is very involved in the South Korean market, » said Huish, who studies security on the Korean peninsula.

“For the future, there is a need to make this stronger.”

Mr. Huish said airplanes loaded with seafood from Nova Scotia arrived in South Korea several times a week before the COVID-19 pandemic and that a network of Canada-Korea friendship groups fostered strong industrial links.

« Canada is emerging as a very strategic market for South Korea, whether it’s the export of seafood products or, now, electric vehicle components. »

Both could be on the agenda next month when Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly and Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne join a delegation to Seoul.

Mr. Yoon also thanked Canada for its support in containing the threat posed by North Korea.

Canada recently deployed a frigate as part of an ongoing multinational monitoring operation to determine if the communist regime is trying to evade sanctions. This includes monitoring vessels transferring fuel or cargo.

Friday’s meeting comes after months of anticipating Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, a document that industry groups say will clarify which countries Ottawa wants to move closer to and which ones should be a lower priority due to trade barriers or human rights concerns.

Countries like Britain and France have already published such documents, and the Liberals promised a few months ago that Canada would present its Indo-Pacific strategy. On Friday, Trudeau twice stressed that South Korea is also working on its own strategy for the region.

Also on Friday, Justin Trudeau announced the appointment of Canada’s ambassador to China, a position left vacant since last December.

He tasked Jennifer May, a career diplomat with three decades of foreign service experience, with advancing both business and democratic values.

« China is certainly a real challenger in the region, » Trudeau said Friday. A nuanced approach that looks after the interests of Canadians, the interests of citizens across our democracies, is essential.”

« For too long, China and other autocracies have been able to play neighbors and friends against each other, offering scraps of market access. »

At several points during his visit, Mr. Yoon mentioned Canada’s sacrifice during the Korean War, including after laying a wreath at the National War Memorial.

Earlier in the day, during a visit to Justin Trudeau’s office in the West Block, Yoon praised his policies and support for multiculturalism.

“You are such an endearing leader; you have brought unity to Canadian society”, mentioned a translator of Mr. Yoon in English.


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