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China, Russia slam meeting in Vancouver as outmoded

Jan 17,2018
China and Russia lambasted a foreign ministers’ meeting, from which they have been excluded, hosted by the United States and Canada on the North Korea nuclear issue, criticizing it as mostly involving countries allied with Washington during the 1950-53 Korean War.

The Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Security and Stability on the Korean Peninsula, set to open in Vancouver on Tuesday, will be attended by U.S. State Secretary Rex Tillerson, South Korea’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and top diplomats and military officials of some 20 countries, including Japan, Australia and the United Kingdom.

The Chinese state-run newspaper Global Times claimed in a front-page article that the United States has gathered a peculiar circle of countries to debate the North Korea nuclear issue, reminiscent of the United Nations Command, excluding Beijing and Moscow.

An English language op-ed on the Global Times website Monday said, “It’s strange that many of the countries invited are not stakeholders in the situation, but those who participated under UN Command during the Korean War,” adding that Washington “seems to be reviving the long-forgotten multinational military alliance.”

The article argued that Washington “wants to pressure Pyongyang by signaling that it is indeed preparing to use force.”

It further suggested that the United States hopes “to highlight its dominant role in resolving the North Korean nuclear issue and cripple the clout of China and Russia” through the Vancouver group, since it finds the UN Security Council too difficult to manipulate.

Last week, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang also warned that such a meeting is reminiscent of “Cold War-era thinking.”

Similarly, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was quoted by Russia’s Tass news agency as saying in a press conference Monday that Moscow considers the meeting to be “destructive.”

Lavrov rejected U.S. State Department remarks that there had been consultations with Moscow and Beijing, calling the claims that they had been supportive of the meeting “outright lies.”

He also noted that the meeting invited countries that were members of the UN coalition during the Korean War, questioning the involvement of countries such as Greece, Belgium, Colombia and Luxembourg “with the current efforts to resolve the Korean Peninsula issue.”

While Russia and China were not invited to the meeting, according to Lavrov, there was a proposal for representatives of the two countries to join participants Tuesday evening after the main session was over, so they could be informed about what had happened.

Lavrov questioned whether the meeting will bear any fruit, adding that the purpose of the meeting is to exert additional pressure on Pyongyang. He added that Russia was prepared to support direct communication between the United States and North Korea on the Korean Peninsula’s nuclear issue, including through the long-stalled six-party talks involving China, Japan, Russia, the United States, Japan and the two Koreas.

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis also took part in a welcome dinner for the Vancouver meeting on Monday evening.

“The whole point is to reinforce the diplomatic options and to show that there are military options” should North Korea attack, Mattis was quoted by NBC as telling reporters en route to Vancouver Monday. “But it is all couched within a framework of strengthening the diplomat’s hands.”

Diplomatic sources have described the meeting as a venue to discuss increasing diplomatic and financial pressure on North Korea to give up its nuclear and missile program and further implement sanctions.

An issue that is expected to be discussed is maritime interdiction, to crack down on ships carrying prohibited goods in violation of sanctions on North Korea.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]