China, Japan Criticize Canada’s Bid to Play North Korea Mediator

Updated on
  • Key countries omitted from guest list for Vancouver conference
  • Neighbors are both central to ongoing efforts to pressure Kim
Two Koreas Agree to Military Dialogue

Two of North Korea’s closest neighbors have criticized Canada’s effort to help coordinate the international response to Kim Jong Un’s weapons program.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said Wednesday that an upcoming Canadian-organized meeting on North Korea would “not help” because it didn’t include key players, adding that it would “harm joint efforts to improve the situation on the peninsula.” Japan, South Korea, India and Sweden are among those invited. China and Russia -- who supported the North Korea side during the war -- were not.

Meanwhile, a Japanese foreign ministry official questioned the need for including countries as distant as Colombia and Greece.

Canada is among several countries that have sought to bolster diplomatic efforts amid escalating saber-rattling by U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim, the North Korean leader. As a result, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson agreed to co-host with Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland a Jan. 16 summit on the topic in Vancouver.

’Cold War’ Thinking

The effort to seek “a more peaceful, prosperous and nuclear-free future” on the Korean Peninsula has since been overshadowed by the first direct talks between the two Koreas in more than two years Tuesday.

While few details have been released, the Vancouver guest list includes 17 countries that contributed troops to United Nations forces during and after the Korean War, according to a document distributed to reporters Tuesday by Japan’s foreign ministry.

In an apparent reference to the guest list, China’s Lu also warned Wednesday against perpetuating “Cold War” thinking.

Canada has “repeatedly engaged” China on the meeting, a spokesman for Freeland said.

“A stable, secure and denuclearized Korean peninsula requires substantive cooperation and discussion by the international community,” spokesman Alex Lawrence said in a written statement Wednesday.‎ “Canada recognizes the essential role that China has to play in any diplomatic efforts in support of security and stability on the Korean Peninsula.”

TPP Dispute

The Trump administration views economic pressure from China, which shares a border with North Korea, as crucial to forcing Kim into negotiations over his weapons program. Meanwhile, while Japan, which hosts about 50,000 U.S. military personnel, sees itself as among the most likely targets of North Korea’s weapons.

A Japanese foreign ministry official also criticized the list of invitees, saying they “are not necessarily the 17 countries most affected by North Korea.” The official, who asked not to be identified in line with government policy, said Japan had been given no details on who would attend, what would be discussed or how the event would be organized.

Ties between Canada and Japan were strained in November, after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised last-minute objections to an effort by the remaining 11 participants in a Pacific trade pact to revive the deal without Trump.

— With assistance by Isabel Reynolds, Peter Martin, and Josh Wingrove

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.
    LEARN MORE