South Korea and Canada agreed to boost cooperation on crucial supply chains and work more closely to counter North Korea’s growing nuclear threats after their leaders met in Seoul on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — on his first official visit to South Korea, and the first by a Canadian leader in nearly a decade — met President Yoon Suk Yeol for a summit on Wednesday afternoon.
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After the talks, Yoon said the pair had agreed to “deepen cooperation” on supply chains, especially for critical minerals used in electric vehicle batteries, which Canada has reserves of and which are needed by South Korea’s car manufacturers.
The two leaders also discussed regional security and condemned North Korea’s banned nuclear program, Yoon told a joint press briefing, following another record-breaking year of missile launches by Pyongyang’s Kim Jong Un.
Trudeau offered Seoul support in its plans to “achieve a denuclearised, peaceful, unified and prosperous Korean Peninsula”, as well as more cooperation on security, according to a statement released by both governments.
“This support includes the augmentation of Canada’s naval presence and participation in multinational operations in the region,” it said.
The two countries, which already have “deeply rooted people-to-people ties”, also announced a new program designed to give Korean and Canadian young people “increased work and travel opportunities” in the other country.
Earlier, Trudeau had told South Korean lawmakers that the two countries needed stronger ties as the world was facing a moment of unprecedented uncertainty, with lingering consequences from the Covid-19 pandemic, rising living costs, and the “real and terrifying” effects of climate change and war.
“I’m here to tell you that it’s no longer enough to be friends. We need to be the best of friends,” Trudeau said during a speech to Seoul’s National Assembly.
– Canada’s minerals –
South Korea is Canada’s seventh largest trading partner, Seoul says, with the Asian country mostly selling cars and smartphones and buying raw materials including coal and copper ore.
The two countries signed a slew of memorandums of understanding, including one they said would contribute to “strengthening and securing supply chains for clean energy and critical minerals”.
“This will support the development of clean technologies that will power green and sustainable economic growth,” and help both countries’ battery and electric vehicle industries, they said.
Canadian media outlets also reported on possible meetings between Trudeau and top executives from South Korean battery maker LG Energy Solution.
The company and its partner, auto manufacturer Stellantis, halted construction work this week on a massive EV battery plant in Canada, saying Trudeau’s government “has not delivered on what was agreed to”.
Trudeau’s visit follows a trip by Yoon to Ottawa last year.
Since then, the two countries have released Indo-Pacific strategies providing a road map for boosting military and economic relationships in the region to counter the growing influence of China.
“Canada intends to take more interest in the Indo-Pacific region and to actively intervene with the United States and is moving in that direction,” said Park Won-gon, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.
“South Korea is the same in that respect, so there are shared interests between them,” he added.