Russia and China lashed out at Canada and the United States Wednesday following the publication of the final document from the meeting of nearly 20 foreign ministers that had gathered in Vancouver to show a common front in the face of North Korea’s rapidly developing nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
The summit, co-hosted by Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday, included the original states involved in the UN Command during the 1950-53 Korean War, as well as representatives from South Korea, Japan, India and Sweden.
But China and Russia, two countries that share a land border with North Korea and along with South Korea and Japan stand to lose the most if a war were to break out on the Korean Peninsula, were not invited under the pretext that neither were part of the UN Command.
However, the two countries got a lot of ink in the final document produced at the conclusion of the one-day meeting yesterday.
The co-chairs’ statement once again underlined the central theme of the meeting in Vancouver.
“Nearly seven decades after these states stepped up to restore stability on the Korean Peninsula, Ministers unequivocally declared that North Korea will never be accepted as a nuclear power and committed to exerting continued pressure, including by strengthening sanctions, in order to bring North Korea back to negotiations,” the statement said.
“They reaffirmed that these measures will remain in place until North Korea changes its course and takes decisive, irreversible steps to denuclearize.”
The document also stated that a “diplomatic solution is both essential and possible” and recognized “the importance and special responsibility of China and Russia in contributing to a long-term solution on the Korean Peninsula.”
The co-chairs’ also said they “recognize China’s special role and responsibility to contribute to this effort” and called on the international community “work closely with partners in the region and globally, including China and Russia, to ensure full and effective implementation of existing sanctions on North Korea, particularly through enhanced information sharing and expanded support to the UN Panel of Experts, to combat sanctions evasion.”
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang said China’s position on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue remains unchanged.
“We are forever committed to achieving the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, maintaining peace and stability on the peninsula, and peacefully and properly resolving the issue through dialogue and consultation,” Lu said.
‘A product of Cold War era’
But he slammed Canada and the U.S. for their decision to gather the original states involved in the UN command during the 1950-53 Korean War and for excluding China and Russia from the main meeting.
Lu said the UN Command, which fought Chinese and North Korean forces during the war, was “a product of the Cold War era” and “has long lost its relevance.”
“As initiators of the meeting, the U.S. and Canada co-hosted the meeting under the banner of the so-called UN Command sending states,” Lu said.
“That is Cold War mentality pure and simple, and will only drive a wedge among the international community and undermine the concerted efforts to seek proper settlement of the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue.”
The nature of the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue is one of security, Lu said.
“Only by addressing the legitimate security concerns of all parties in a balanced way through dialogue can we find an effective pathway towards the peaceful settlement of the Peninsula issue,” he added.
‘Unacceptable and counterproductive’
Chinese reaction was echoed in Moscow where the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry’s information and press service issued a sharply worded reply to the final document released by summit co-chairs Freeland and Tillerson.
The ideas expressed in the document confirmed Russia’s doubts about the “usefulness of this event,” the statement said.
Russian officials “were perplexed at the mention in the document of Russia and China, especially given that the ministers of foreign affairs of the two countries were not invited to the meeting where the Korean problem was supposed to be discussed,” the statement said.
The Russian statement also criticized the participants for allegedly usurping the power of the UN Security Council.
The Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry took a particular exception to calls in the final document to impose unilateral sanctions on North Korea and diplomatic actions against Pyongyang that go beyond those required by UN Security Council resolutions.
Russia called such actions “absolutely unacceptable and counterproductive.”
“Such a crude attempt by a group of states whose meeting did not have a UN mandate to undermine the significance of the decisions of the Security Council demonstrates their complete disrespect for this important international institution whose decisions are binding on all states in the world,” the Russian statement said.
“We regret to state that such events, conducted hastily and negatively affecting the functioning of proven multilateral formats, do not contribute to the normalization of the situation around the Korean peninsula, but, on the contrary, aggravate it.”
Officials at Global Affairs Canada could not be reached in time to comment on these statements.