12/15/2017 11:54 EST | Updated 12/15/2017 16:28 EST

Rex Tillerson Heading To Ottawa To Talk Canada-U.S. Relations Before Holidays

Better pack the parka.

Yuri Gripas / Reuters
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland face reporters before their meeting at the State Department in Washington D.C. on Oct. 11, 2017.

WASHINGTON — U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will meet Canadian cabinet members during a visit to Ottawa next week where he will discuss a variety of international issues including the North Korea nuclear crisis.

Tillerson's schedule includes a session with the ministerial committee on Canada-U.S. relations, in addition to meeting with his Canadian counterpart, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, during his visit Tuesday.

Aaron Bernstein / Reuters
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson looks on as Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland speaks at the State Department in Washington, U.S., Aug. 16, 2017.

The two are co-hosting an international conference in the new year on the North Korea standoff.

Tillerson has been seeking non-military solutions to the impasse, while other members of the administration, including President Donald Trump, have expressed skepticism about whether diplomacy can work.

The secretary of state told the United Nations on Friday that China and Russia need to exert more pressure on their sometimes-ally — China by stopping the flow of crude oil to North Korean refineries, and Russia by ending the employment of North Korean migrants in that country, under "slave-like conditions,'' with wages sent back home to fund the nuclear weapons program.

"We do not seek, nor do we want, war with North Korea,'' Tillerson said.

"The United States will use all necessary measures to defend itself against North Korean aggression, but our hope remains that diplomacy will produce a resolution. As I said earlier this week, a sustained cessation of North Korea's threatening behaviour must occur before talks can begin. North Korea must earn its way back to the table... We will, in the meantime, keep our channels of communication open.''

We do not seek, nor do we want, war with North Korea. Rex Tilllerson

He said the U.S. will not accept, as a precondition of talks, ending existing sanctions.

His visit to Ottawa comes amid a series of lower-stakes tensions with Canada over trade: disputes over softwood lumber and aerospace duties are winding their way through various legal complaints, and the countries are preparing for an intense series of NAFTA talks in the new year.

Freeland on NAFTA: 'Hope for the best and prepare for the worst'

"I look forward to welcoming Secretary Tillerson to Ottawa next week for his first official visit to Canada as secretary of state,'' Freeland said in a statement.

"His visit is an opportunity to discuss issues of importance to Canadians and Americans and to strengthen our collaboration in addressing regional and global issues.''

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