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(LEAD) Ministers to discuss maritime interdiction at N.K. meeting in Canada

All News 06:21 January 12, 2018

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with State Department briefing, details; CHANGES headline)

WASHINGTON, Jan. 11 (Yonhap) -- Foreign ministers from more than a dozen nations will discuss ways to stop North Korea's sanctions evasion through maritime interdiction when they meet in Canada next week, the State Department said Thursday.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will co-host the Vancouver Foreign Ministers' Meeting on Security and Stability on the Korean Peninsula on Tuesday to address North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs, according to a statement. It will be co-hosted by Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland.

"The meeting will bring together nations from across the globe to demonstrate international solidarity against North Korea's dangerous and illegal nuclear and ballistic missile programs," the statement said. "Discussions will focus on advancing and strengthening diplomatic efforts toward a secure, prosperous and denuclearized Korean peninsula."

The gathering comes as tensions have sharply escalated over North Korea's provocations, which last year included its sixth nuclear test and three tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles.

It will be joined mainly by the 16 nations that fought alongside or provided combat support to the South in the 1950-53 Korean War. South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha is expected to be among the attendees, while U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will participate in a welcome dinner Monday.

The ministers will discuss steps to thwart North Korea's evasion of sanctions, including through maritime interdiction, State Department Director of Policy Planning Brian Hook said in a press briefing.

He also said China and Russia, which have not been invited, will be briefed on the discussions after the meeting.

North Korea was also not invited and would first have to indicate a willingness to put down its nuclear weapons before being asked to join any such meeting, Steve Goldstein, undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, told the same briefing.

Meanwhile, Tillerson and Kang will "have an opportunity to interact," he added, possibly alluding to bilateral talks.

The two Koreas held their first high-level talks in more than two years this week, leading some to expect an easing of tensions ahead of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in the South next month.

North Korea agreed to send athletes as part of a delegation to the Games.

Asked whether the U.S. and North Korea could hold talks during the Olympics, Hook said, "No."

Vice President Mike Pence will lead the official U.S. delegation.


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