Will Vancouver meeting on North Korea help or hinder peace?


“Is it going to be middle-power multilateralism, where we bring countries together, the like-minded and not like-minded, to fashion some solutions that will be supportive of what the big guys are going to be doing?” [Professor Paul] Evans said.

“Or is this coalitional activity with our American friends, signalling we are onside with them come hell or high water?”

According to Global Affairs, the upcoming Vancouver meeting, entitled Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on Security and Stability on the Korean Peninsula Vancouver 2018 has several aims, including

…to demonstrate solidarity in opposition to North Korea’s dangerous and illegal actions… to strengthen diplomatic efforts… and …to increase the effectiveness of the global sanctions regime in support of a rules-based international order.

But the opaque agenda and even more curious list of participants has succeeded in raising the ire of several countries who are critical to achieving a peaceful resolution to the crisis. See: China heaping scorn on North Korea meeting next week in Vancouver (Lee Berthiaume, Canadian Press in CBC News, 11 January 2018).

“It will only create divisions within the international community and harm joint efforts to appropriately resolve the Korean peninsula nuclear issue,” Chinese spokesman Lu Kang was quoted as telling reporters in Beijing.

And the Canadian Press article went on to say that

Russia is also expected to be absent along with China, meaning two of North Korea’s most important and influential neighbours will be missing when Freeland and Tillerson sit down with other foreign ministers.

Bloomberg news reported a day earlier that one of the invitees and a key ally—Japan—had also criticized the list of invitees and the lack of information on both the form and substance of the meeting.

Commentators also wondered whether recent events, notably the Olympic diplomacy now underway between North and South Korea, had put into further question the timing and scope of the Vancouver meeting. See: Vancouver’s North Korea meeting: Opaque agenda, odd group of participants (John Ibbitson, Globe and Mail, 9 January 2018):

With nothing specific on the agenda, one wonders what is to be gained by reassembling the coalition of nations that fought against North Korea, other than to antagonize North Korea.

The Vancouver meeting takes place against a backdrop of extraordinary events in relation to nuclear weapons and nuclear disarmament efforts, ranging from the sublime:

–          global NGO ICAN wins the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts in achieving a UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and

–          the main diplomatic negotiators of that treaty are awarded the prestigious American Arms Control Association award of Arms Control Persons of the Year;

to the ridiculous:

–          Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calls the Treaty—approved by 122 countries—“sort of useless” because the nuclear armed states have yet to come on board, and

–          President Trump boasts about his nuclear button being bigger than that of North Korean leader Kim Yong-Un.

For a trenchant Canadian commentary on these lamentable actions by Trudeau and Trump, see: Fingers off the buttons, boys: Women’s voices are crucial to the prevention of nuclear war (Elizabeth Renzetti, Globe and Mail, 5 January 2018).

Another timely and relevant disarmament effort is that of Liberal M.P. Pam Damoff, with the assistance Dr. Barbara Birkett, member of Physicians for Global Survival. It is Parliamentary e-petition 1402: Nuclear Weapons. The required 500 signatures to trigger the obligation of a written response from the Government of Canada were reached in only three days. Now the goal is to reach 1000 signatures as soon as possible.

Click here to sign it.

Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland asserts that feminism is a guiding principle of our global policies. While we applaud this goal, it is surely put into question by our flouting of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, our ongoing arms exports to the murderous Saudi regime, and our general preoccupation with avoiding any action that might irritate President Trump.

In contrast with this distinct lack of courage and imagination, click here for information on efforts by an amazing array of Canadian and international women’s organizations to promote a diplomatic solution to the crisis on the Korean peninsula.


Photo credit: Niana Liu



Tags: Arms Control Association, Canadian Voice of Women for Peace, China, Conference on Disarmament, feminist foreign policy, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, Foreign Ministers Meeting on Security and Stability on the Korean Peninsula Vancouver 2018, ICAN, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, Japan, Korean Peninsula, North Korea, President Donald Trump, President Kim Yong-un, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Professor Paul Evans, Russia, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, South Korea, Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, UN, UN First Committee, UN General Assembly, UN Office for Disarmament Affairs, United Nations, Women Cross DMZ