Neither China nor Russia will attend a Vancouver diplomatic meeting this week of major world powers on North Korean sanctions and nuclear proliferation, meaning the conference is basically nothing but show.
Foreign ministers from around 20 nations gather on Tuesday to discuss how to curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions through diplomatic and financial pressure, but China, seen as a key player in any long-term solution, will be absent.
The Vancouver meeting, co-hosted by Canada and the United States, comes amid signs that tensions on the peninsula have eased, at least temporarily. North and South Korea held talks for the first time in two years last week and Pyongyang says it will send athletes across the border to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
But the United States and others say the international community must look at ways of expanding a broad range of sanctions aimed at North Korea’s nuclear program.
“There is growing evidence that our maximum pressure campaign is being felt in North Korea. They are feeling the strain,” said Brian Hook, the State Department’s director of policy planning.
Hook told a briefing in Washington that participants, including U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, would examine how to boost maritime security around North Korea to intercept ships trying to defy sanctions as well as “disrupting funding and disrupting resources.”
The 17-nation Proliferation Security Initiative, which aims to prevent the trafficking of weapons of mass destruction, on Friday said “it is imperative for us to redouble our efforts to put maximum pressure on North Korea”.
But North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has shown no sign of willingness to give in to U.S. demands and negotiate away a weapons program he sees as vital to his survival.
Another challenge in Vancouver will be the absence of China, which has significant influence in North Korea. Beijing is Pyongyang’s only ally and its chief trading partner.
The meeting primarily groups those nations that sent troops to the Korean war of 1950-53, when China fought alongside the North. Beijing condemned the gathering.
“Holding this kind of meeting that doesn’t include important parties to the Korean peninsula nuclear issue actually cannot help in advancing an appropriate resolution to the issue,” foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular briefing.
China doesn't want to lower the boom on Pyongyang, not with tens of thousands of US troops nearby in South Korea. It's not like they trust Trump, either...or Russia for that matter. People keep forgetting that Russia shares 2,600 miles of border with China and that Putin's power grabs in Europe don't exactly endear him to Beijing.
The US wants China to do the heavy lifting on reining in Kim Jong Un and his nuclear ambitions and they don't want any part of it, not yet anyway. The two Koreas may be making nice for the Winter Games next month, but after that who knows. It's a mess.
Certainly Trump won't make things better.