WASHINGTON – Foreign ministers from the Group of Eight nations agreed Wednesday that if North Korea carries through with its long-range rocket launch that it would be a “clear violation” of U.N. resolutions.
The consensus was reached at the first day of a meeting in Washington of the ministers from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States — four of which are permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.
In discussing North Korea, much of the debate focused on how they should stand against Pyongyang in the event of the launch as preparations appeared to approach the final stages, officials involved in the two-day meeting said.
Amid global concerns the launch is a cover for testing long-range missile technology, there are no signs that North Korea is thinking twice about the plan, which forms the centerpiece of its celebrations for the 100th anniversary of the birth of its founder, Kim Il Sung.
“It violates multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, chair of the Washington meeting, told her counterparts. “I think we all share a strong interest in stability on the Korean Peninsula.”
Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba sought support from his G-8 peers to issue a strong message to North Korea while they are in the U.S. capital and proposed that Pyongyang’s latest provocative action be referred to the U.N. Security Council, according to the officials.
“North Korea’s missile development is a real threat to regional peace and stability and it cannot be accepted,” the officials quoted Genba as saying when he led off their discussions on the planned launch. “I want to continue to work closely with the G-8 countries, including on how to respond in the event the launch goes ahead.”
Other G-8 ministers supported Japan’s stance and many of them denounced the possible breaking of the North’s promises and existing resolutions, the officials said.
Britain, France, Russia and the United States have permanent seats on the five-member Security Council, while Germany this year is a nonpermanent member of the most powerful U.N. body.
The shared stance on North Korea among the G-8 ministers was greatly welcomed by Japan, which is not part of the 15-member Security Council.
Japan is planning to ask the United States, which holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council until the end of April, to convene an emergency meeting if North Korea goes ahead with the launch, government officials said.
On Wednesday, the ministers discussed many other issues at Blair House, the official U.S. state guest house, in preparation for the G-8 summit to be held in mid-May.
Among other topics, the continuing violence in Syria and Iran’s nuclear weapons program stirred heated debate, according to the G-8 related officials.
The ministers discussed how best to achieve a peaceful resolution in Syria, as doubts persist over the government of President Bashar Assad’s commitment to a ceasefire plan, brokered by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, under which the Middle Eastern country’s armed forces must silence their guns as of 6 a.m. Thursday local time.
Russia, Syria’s most powerful ally, is believed to have been persuaded by the United States and other G-8 countries that it is time for the country to play an active role in ending the violence.
The ministers also expressed hope that the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program will finally be resolved in the near future as Tehran has agreed to resume talks with the five U.N. Security Council permanent members, also including China, and Germany in Istanbul this weekend, according to the officials.