China and Russia are denouncing an international summit on North Korea in Vancouver next week, saying the event co-hosted by Canada and the United States is “a relapse of the Cold War mentality.”
Washington and Ottawa have called the meeting to demonstrate international commitment to diplomatic solutions to the escalating threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, Brian Hook, Director of Policy Planning at the U.S. State Department, told reporters Thursday.
“The ministerial – the goal of the ministerial is to provide a practical mechanism – mechanisms to exert continued pressure on the Kim regime while demonstrating that diplomatic options remain open and viable,” Hood said.
The so-called Vancouver Group meeting on Jan. 16 will include the original states that sent troops to fight in the 1950-53 Korean War under the United Nations Command, as well as representatives from the Republic of Korea, Japan, India and Sweden.
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But while countries like Ethiopia, Greece and Colombia are expected to be at the summit – they had each dispatched over 1,000 soldiers to fight under the UN banner in 1950 – neither China nor Russia, two of North Korea’s immediate and influential neighbours, will be in Vancouver when summit co-hosts Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and U.S. State Secretary Rex Tillerson sit down with other foreign ministers.
“We know about the plans to hold a meeting of Korean War allies in Vancouver. We regard this as a relapse of the Cold War mentality that is unacceptable in light of the nascent dialogue between North Korea and South Korea,” Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova tweeted.
“We consider it impossible to support an event that may lead to the escalation of an already tense situation on the Korean Peninsula.”
#Zakharova: We know about the plans to hold a meeting of Korean War allies in Vancouver. We regard this as a relapse of the Cold War mentality that is unacceptable in light of the nascent dialogue between North Korea and South Korea pic.twitter.com/yCQWpk3QVN
— MFA Russia 🇷🇺 (@mfa_russia) January 12, 2018
Her comments echoed a statement by her Chinese counterpart.
“It will only create divisions within the international community and harm joint efforts to appropriately resolve the Korean peninsula nuclear issue,” spokesman Lu Kang was quoted as telling reporters in Beijing on Wednesday.
U.S. and Canadian officials couldn’t offer a convincing explanation when asked about the motives for not inviting the two countries that have the most influence with Pyongyang and have a huge stake in a peaceful resolution of the crisis given that they both share a land border with North Korea.
“With respect to China and the Vancouver ministerial, we will give them a readout of this ministerial after it’s over, and we have been in discussions with the Chinese and the Russians leading up to this Vancouver ministerial,” Hook said. “This is based on sending states. China and Russia were not sending states.”
One of the reasons of not including Beijing and Moscow in the Vancouver summit probably has to do with the fact that the participants will likely focus on coming up with measures to tighten the screws on Pyongyang even further, including significantly tightening the maritime surveillance of the Hermit Kingdom’s imports.
“We continue to explore all options to enhance maritime security and the ability to interdict maritime traffic, those transporting goods to and from the DPRK that support the nuclear and missile program,” Hood said, referring to the North by its official name, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“And we will be discussing with our partners and allies the kind of steps that we can take on maritime interdiction and also to be cutting – disrupting funding and disrupting resources. And maritime interdiction helps us to disrupt resources, and then the financial side helps us to disrupt the financing of their nuclear and missile program.”
While both Russia and China have supported the recent UN Security Council sanctions against Pyongyang, the two countries, particularly China, worry that instead of making Pyongyang more compliant, tightening of the sanctions could drive the North Koreans over the edge.
Both countries also want to limit U.S. and allied military presence in the region and the potential of having dozens of additional navy warships from various U.S.-allied nations trying to interdict North Korean vessels so close to the main Russian and Chinese ports in the Pacific is not an idea that either Moscow or Beijing cherish.