Philippines joins Vancouver summit on North Korea

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  • Twenty nations including the Philippines agreed on January 16, 2018, to consider tougher sanctions to press North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

    A meeting hosted jointly in Vancouver by Canada and the U.S. including countries, like the Philippines, that backed South Korea during the 1950-53 Korea War also vowed to support renewed dialogue between the two Koreas “in hopes that it leads to sustained easing of tensions”.

    The nations agreed that a diplomatic solution to the crisis was both essential and possible.

    U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned North Korea it could trigger a military response if it did not choose negotiations.

    The so-called Vancouver Group is formed by 20 countries that fought in the 1950-53 Korean War. They include Australia, Britain, France, India, Japan, the Philippines and South Korea.

    The meeting also was attended by officials from Thailand, Belgium, Colombia, France, India, Italy, and Sweden. Foreign ministers attending came from Denmark, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, and Turkey.

    The Vancouver summit did not include China and Russia.

    China dismissed the international meeting on the North Korean nuclear crisis hosted by Canada and the U.S. as illegitimate, as major players like Beijing were not present.

    The absence of Russia and China from the talks in Vancouver, which began on January 15, 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 briefing.

    Lu denounced the “Cold War mentality” of “relevant parties” — without naming nations.

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

    While Russia and China have backed UN sanctions against North Korea, they have pushed for the U.S. to halt military drills in the region in return for Pyongyang suspending weapons tests.

    Steve Goldstein, a senior U.S. State Department official, told reporters that China and Russia were not invited to the meeting, but would be briefed about it “right when it is over”.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov slammed the U.S., saying: “Unfortunately, our American colleagues and their allies still want to do business solely on the basis of issuing ultimatums and do not want to listen to the views of other centers of world politics.”

    U.S. President Donald Trump has pushed Chinese leader Xi Jinping to increase economic and political pressure on North Korea in the hopes of convincing it to stop the development of its nuclear weapons programme.

    But in recent weeks there has been an apparent rapprochement, with the two Koreas meeting for the first time in two years and Pyongyang agreeing to send athletes to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea.

    Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said in Vancouver that the world should not be naive about North Korea’s “charm offensive” in engaging in talks with the South.

    “It is not the time to ease the pressure, or to reward North Korea,” he said. “The fact that North Korea is engaging in dialogue could be interpreted as proof that the sanctions are working.”

    South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said she hoped the dialogue would continue well beyond the Olympics, but stressed that existing sanctions must be applied more rigorously.

    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has refused to give up development of nuclear missiles capable of hitting the U.S. in spite of increasingly severe UN sanctions, raising fears of a new war on the Korean peninsula.

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