By Barry Ellsworth
Canada, the United States and its allies said Tuesday they will never accept North Korea as a nuclear power.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued the ominous warning during a press conference after a one-day summit in Vancouver on what to do about Pyongyang’s growing nuclear threat.
In all, 20 countries met, and the conclusion was that sanctions would continue to be rigorously applied and that tougher measures including maritime interdiction may be instituted, Tillerson said. That could mean stopping and searching ships suspected of delivering goods on the UN sanctioned list to North Korea.
Russia and China were not invited to the summit – attendance was limited to those countries that supported South Korea during the Korean War in the early 1950s. Both Russia and China have been accused of breaking UN sanctions by shipping goods into North Korea, particularly oil. Both have denied the charge and both condemned the summit as a threat to peace efforts.
Tillerson had a message for the Russians and Chinese.
“We must all insist on a full enforcement of UN Security Council sanctions, as this is the letter of the law,” he said. “We especially urge Russia and China in this matter.”
The message delivered during the press conference was essentially the same as that which preceded the summit.
“The pressure campaign will continue until North Korea takes decisive steps to de-nuclearize,” said Tillerson.
“This is a strategy that has and will require patience, but thanks to your (allies) support, the regime is already facing costs it is having difficulty bearing.”
Canada and the United States co-hosted the summit.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland echoed Tillerson’s words as she spoke to a room full of diplomats and reporters before going into the behind-closed-doors summit.
“Investing in nuclear weapons will lead only to more sanctions and to perpetual instability on the peninsula,” she said.
“The pursuit of nuclearization will bring you (North Korea) neither security nor prosperity.”
Although North and South Korea are now engaged in talks, Japan’s Foreign Minister warned allies not to be lulled into believing the rogue country has changed its stripes.
Taro Kono said North Korea could be simply “trying to buy some time” while they work feverishly on their nuclear and missile programs.
“It is not the time to ease pressure towards North Korea,” he said.
Tillerson was asked if the U.S. would directly engage North Korea in talks.
“The object of negotiations, if and when we get there, is the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea,” he said.
“All nations here today are united around that goal.”
After the conference, just how far the allies would go to achieve that goal was not laid out in detail by Tillerson or Freeland.