Canada and some of its closest partners say it will take nothing short of a complete end to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program for Pyongyang to win an end to sanctions and the broader acceptance of the international community.
The stark warning comes at the start of a major international meeting in Vancouver, where representatives from 20 countries are discussing ways to increase pressure on North Korea and ultimately end its nuclear aspirations.
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Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and counterparts from Japan, South Korea and Britain kicked off the meeting with a unanimous message for the North Korean government: give up your nuclear weapons.
The North Koreans recently reached out to their South Korean brethren for the first time in years and will participate in next month’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, a development welcomed by Freeland and several other leaders.
Yet they insisted that what U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson described as a “maximum-pressure campaign” against North Korea will continue until Kim Jong-Un and his regime agree to a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.
During the meeting, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said its talks with North Korea are a “significant first step toward restoring inter-Korean relations.”
But Kang said that despite the overtures, North Korea has yet to show any intention to fulfill its obligations on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. If North Korea continues down its current path, sanctions will remain in place, Kang added.
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono voiced skepticism about North Korea’s intentions. He said the North “wants to buy some time to continue their nuclear and missile programs.”
Tillerson also called for nations to improve maritime interdiction of ships conducting illicit trade with North Korea.
He said the gathering of like-minded nations sends Kim Jong Un a unified message: “We will not accept a nuclear-armed North Korea.” He is especially urging China and Russia, which are not invited to the meeting to fully implement U.N. sanctions.
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The participants, whose nations all supported South Korea during the Korean War, will spend the rest of the day behind closed doors, discussing how best to tighten sanctions against the North and possible avenues for diplomacy.
Two of North Korea’s largest and most influential neighbours, Russia and China, were not invited to participate in the discussions and have since blasted the Vancouver gathering as potentially harmful to peace efforts