World

Vancouver meeting focuses on sanctions as Koreas explore detente

US, Canada lead 20-nation gathering amid easing tensions on Korean peninsula

VANCOUVER: A meeting of states that backed South Korea in the Korean war will look at ways to better implement sanctions to push North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons, officials said, even as the North and South explore detente ahead of next month's Winter Olympics.

Foreign ministers and senior officials from 20 nations were scheduled to hold a full-day meeting in Vancouver, Canada, yesterday, hosted by the US and Canada, looking to increase diplomatic and financial pressure on North Korea to give up its development of nuclear missiles capable of hitting the US.

Canadian and US officials said the meeting will discuss ways to ensure implementation of wide-ranging United Nations sanctions, including steps agreed last month to further limit Pyongyang's access to refined petroleum products, crude oil and industrial goods.

The Vancouver meeting primarily groups nations that assisted South Korea in the 1950-53 Korean War, as well as South Korea and Japan. China and Russia, which backed the North in the war but have since agreed to UN sanctions on Pyongyang, will not be attending.

TRUCE

South Korea and the US are technically still at war with the North because the Korean War ended with a truce.

The Vancouver meeting was announced after North Korea tested its biggest intercontinental ballistic missile in November, but it comes amid signs that tensions on the Korean peninsula are easing, at least temporarily.The Koreas held formal talks this month for the first time in two years, and Pyongyang said it would send athletes to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in Seoul next month.

China, North Korea's main ally, has backed successive rounds of UN sanctions but has also urged dialogue to solve the crisis. It has reacted angrily to the Vancouver meeting as an example of "Cold War" thinking.

China's state media said Chinese President Xi Jinping, in a phone call with US President Donald Trump, stressed that a hard-earned alleviation of tensions must continue.

"Maintaining international unity on the issue is extremely important," Mr Xi said.

China was ready to work with the US to resolve the issue in an appropriate way, state broadcaster CCTV quoted the Chinese leader as saying.

Diplomats have said China's absence will limit what can be achieved, while North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has shown no sign of bowing to pressure to give up weapons he sees as vital to his survival. - REUTERS

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