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OTTAWA—Russia is condemning this week’s summit on North Korea—co-hosted by Canada — saying the meeting produced “nothing constructive” and was little more than propaganda.
Tuesday’s day-long session in Vancouver ended with agreement by the 20 nations for stronger efforts to enforce current sanctions and sever financial support, new maritime interdiction to counter the shipment of banned goods and support for dialogue between North and South Korea.
The measures are all meant to step up the pressure on the North Korean regime to abandon its development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
But in a statement, Russia dismissed the gathering, which included foreign ministers from the U.S., Great Britain, Japan and South Korea among others, charging that it showed “total disrespect” for the United Nations Security Council.
It said the call for unilateral sanctions and other diplomatic measures beyond those set out in the UN resolutions was “absolutely unacceptable and counterproductive.”
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“We regret to say that such meetings, which are conducted in a hurry and which negatively affect the function of proven multilateral formats, do little to normalize the situation on the Korean Peninsula but rather aggravate it,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement posted on its website.
The stern reaction from Moscow is not surprising. Russia was not invited to participate to this week’s talks. Nor was China. At the meeting, both nations were chided for not doing more to enforce sanctions.
“It’s apparent to us they’re not fully implementing all of the sanctions and there’s some evidence that they may be frustrating some of the sanctions,” U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters as he flew back to Washington from the meeting.
Despite being left off the invite list, both China and Russia were recognized in the official statement of the day’s discussions for the “importance and special responsibility” they each have in a long-term solution to the crisis.
And in that respect, the Vancouver was at best, a means to an end.
“They succeeded in achieving their low expectations,” said Marius Grinius, who served as Canadian ambassador to both South Korea and North Korea just over a decade ago.
Grinius said the one-day session highlighted a united front on the need for a diplomatic solution, a message he said it was important for the White House to see amidst President Donald Trump’s taunts about nuclear weapons triggers.
With a focus on diplomacy, he said Canada should rethink its policy, enacted under the previous Conservative government of “controlled engagement” with North Korea that severely restricted interactions with the regime.
“It’s a difficult game for Canada in the sense that here is the United States telling everybody, close down diplomatic relations with North Korea,” Grinius said.
“I’ve been advocating we have to go in the opposite direction and actually engage them more, to be there,” he said.
Tillerson talked tough at the summit, refusing to rule out whether the U.S. would consider a limited military strike at North Korea – the so-called “bloody nose” option.
“We all need to be very sober and clear-eyed about the current situation,” Tillerson said at the wrap-up news conference, with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland.
“If North Korea does not choose the pathway of engagement, discussion, negotiation, then they themselves will trigger an option,” he said.
But Washington’s goal for the “complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” – stated repeatedly by Tillerson this week — is likely out of reach, Grinius said, now that North Korea already has developed nuclear weapons.
Even South Korea concedes now that convincing Kim to forgo nuclear weapons capabilities is “mission impossible.”
Instead, the United States and others will have to come to terms with the reality of a nuclear North Korea, Grinius said.
“So everybody, including the Chinese and Russians collaboratively, have to start thinking about other long-term strategies. Deterrence, containment and de-escalation is the package to be figured out,” he said.
Grinius said the focus in the short-term will be on what he dubbed the “Peace Olympics” – so called because the upcoming Winter Games in South Korea have presented an opportunity for two countries to cooperate on the sports front.
“Best case scenario? Things will be quiet, no testing of any sort, during the Olympics,” Grinius said.