North Korea nuclear crisis

Foreign ministers meet to discuss North Korea nuclear crisis but Beijing denounces discussions as illegitimate

Delegates will examine measures to stop Kim Jong-un’s regime from skirting sanctions as part of the US-led campaign to pressure Pyongyang to give up its nuclear ambitions

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 January, 2018, 1:11pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 January, 2018, 7:05pm

Foreign ministers and senior officials from the United States, Japan and 18 other countries met over dinner on Monday night in Vancouver ahead of Tuesday’s talks in the western Canadian city on addressing North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes.

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis will join the welcome dinner, a sign that a military option remains open to Washington in dealing with Pyongyang’s aggressive weapons development.

However, China on Tuesday dismissed the meeting as illegitimate, as major players like Beijing were not present.

The absence of Russia and China from the two days of talks in Vancouver shows the holes in Washington’s bid to form a unified global front against North Korea’s nuclear threat.

“The most important relevant parties of the Korean peninsula issue haven’t taken part in the meeting so I don’t think the meeting is legal or representative,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular briefing.

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Lu denounced the “cold war mentality” of “relevant parties” – without naming nations.

China, which is North Korea’s main economic and diplomatic ally, has criticised the Vancouver talks and called for sanctions discussions to remain within the United Nations framework.

In Tuesday’s meeting, to be co-hosted by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, delegates will examine measures to stop North Korea from skirting sanctions as part of the US-led campaign to pressure Pyongyang to give up its nuclear ambitions, according to a senior US official.

They will specifically discuss “maritime interdiction” to prevent smuggling that supports North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes, Brian Hook, director of policy planning at the State Department, told journalists last week.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono will send a message in Vancouver that the international community will never recognise North Korea as a nuclear-armed state, and must impose “maximum pressure” through tightened sanctions on Pyongyang to compel it to alter its policy, according to Japanese Foreign Ministry officials.

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The goal of Tuesday’s meeting “is to provide practical mechanisms to exert continued pressure on the Kim regime while demonstrating that diplomatic options remain open and viable”, Hook said, in reference to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who makes no secret of his determination to retain nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them.

The event, the Vancouver Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Security and Stability on the Korean Peninsula, will be attended by the foreign ministers and senior officials of countries that sent troops as part of the UN command during the 1950-1953 Korean war, including Australia, Britain, France, the Philippines and Thailand.

Japan, South Korea, India and Sweden have also been invited.

Separately, Tillerson, Kono and South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha will hold trilateral talks on Tuesday, according to the State Department.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse