Rear Admiral Gilles Couturier

Top naval officer visits South Surrey

Pacific fleet commander calls North Korea 'most unstable'

One of Canada’s top naval officers paid tribute in South Surrey Tuesday to Canadian sailors serving in uncertain times.

“There are no greater ambassadors for your country, our country, than Royal Canadian Navy sailors. All ranks. They are great Canadians, your sons and daughters, your neighbours. They do a great job at sea,” said Rear Admiral Gilles Couturier.

Speaking at a Rotary Club of White Rock luncheon at the Rotary Field House, Couturier – the Pacific fleet commander – also spoke of some of the biggest global security threats. Among them is Russia, a country that has increased its military activity tenfold since the Cold War, he said.

Also on Canada’s radar is North Korea, which he called the most unstable area in the world. Leader Kim Jong-un already has the capability to fire missiles on South Korea, and North Korea’s work continues on reaching North America with such weapons, said Couturier.

“He’s not there yet, although the intelligence assessment will see it differently. My professional opinion is he’s not there, but he’ll get there – and that’s a scary thought.”

Meanwhile China, he said, is building more submarines and ships than anyone in the world, meaning it’s a region that can’t be ignored. Couturier also spoke of the migrant crisis in the Middle East, saying five years ago he never expected Canada’s navy to be involved like it is now.

Couturier, who is based in Esquimalt and first joined the navy in 1983, also spoke of planning for new vessels and continuing programs aimed at modernizing aging warships.

“You now have state-of-the-art ships that are deploying around the world with our young sailors on board because of technology that was built right here in Canada. We should all be proud of that.”

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