North Korea, Syria to dominate G8 foreign ministers summit
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North Korea, Syria to dominate G8 foreign ministers summit

Syrian opposition to meet ministers on sidelines of London talks; US Senators look to China to engage Pyongyang over its recent behavior

US Secretary of State John Kerry, left, walks with British Foreign Secretary William Hague in London in February. The two leaders are taking part in a G8 foreign ministers meeting Wednesday and Thursday, also in London. (photo credit: AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
US Secretary of State John Kerry, left, walks with British Foreign Secretary William Hague in London in February. The two leaders are taking part in a G8 foreign ministers meeting Wednesday and Thursday, also in London. (photo credit: AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

The foreign ministers of the Group of Eight countries were set to meet in London Wednesday and Thursday for talks focusing on the Syrian crisis and North Korea’s mounting threats.

The G8 comprises the United States, Britain, Germany, Russia, France, Italy, Japan, and Canada.

British Foreign Minister William Hague and his French and American counterparts, Laurent Fabius and John Kerry, will also sit down with members of the Syrian National Council for talks alongside the G8.

“I will be joining and convening some of those meetings to discuss the urgent humanitarian needs and the urgent need for a political and diplomatic breakthrough on Syria,” Hague told reporters Tuesday.

France and Britain have pushed to lift an EU embargo on arms to Syria, arguing that the conflict has spiraled into a disastrous humanitarian situation and that monetary aid is not sufficient. However, France recently backed away from that drive, claiming that it hadn’t gotten guarantees that the lethal weapons wouldn’t fall into the hands of extremists.

France won’t deliver weapons to the Syrian opposition until there’s “certainty that these arms will be used by legitimate opposition members, and cut off from all terrorist influence,” French President Francois Hollande said at the end of March. “For now, we don’t have that,” he added.

Changing the EU arms ban requires the support of all 27 member states, and France and Britain had intimated that they would consider acting alone if the law isn’t amended.

Also featuring high on the G8 agenda is North Korea’s increasingly hostile rhetoric. Pyongyang, a would-be nuclear power, warned Tuesday that North and South Korea are “inching close to a thermonuclear war” and urged foreign companies and tourists to leave South Korea.

Russia said Tuesday that the G8 member countries were in agreement that North Korea’s recent statements were aggressive. Meanwhile, US Senators urged China to engage with Pyongyang and use its leverage to preserve the peace in that region.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said that the Obama administration has been consulting with Moscow and Beijing over the North Korea issue.

North Korea has been girding for a showdown with the US and South Korea, its wartime foes, for months. The Korean War ended in 1953 with an armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving the peninsula still technically at war.

In December, North Korea launched a satellite into space on a rocket that Washington and others called a cover for a long-range missile test. The North followed that with an underground nuclear test in February, a step toward mastering the technology for mounting an atomic bomb on a missile.

Tightened UN sanctions that followed drew the ire of North Korea, which accused Washington and Seoul of leading the campaign against it. Annual US-South Korean military drills south of the border have further incensed Pyongyang, which sees them as practice for an invasion.

Last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un enshrined the pursuit of nuclear weapons — which the North characterizes as a defense against the US — as a national goal, along with improving the economy. North Korea also declared it would restart a mothballed nuclear complex.

The G8 leaders will also discuss other international issues, including cyber-security and the issue of preventing sexual violence in warzones, Reuters reported.

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