G8 foreign ministers are united in their condemnation of North Korea, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said on the second and final day of their meeting in London on Thursday.
“All G8 states believe that an escalation of this military rhetoric (from North Korea) must end,” Mr. Westerwelle told reporters before meeting his counterparts from Britain, France, Italy, the United States, Japan, Russia and Canada. “It is in no way acceptable.”
Pyongyang has made threats against South Korea, Japan and the U.S. and appears to be preparing to test several missiles, possibly simultaneously.
North Korea is at a crossroads, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said, and would “end up as a broken country that is isolated” if it did not engage in talks.
On how to proceed in Syria, G8 ministers remain divided, according to Mr. Westerwelle.
Russia is Syria’s only ally in the G8 group of powerful nations, and has persistently blocked harsher action against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in the United Nations Security Council.
There are no signs that it has changed its stance.
Britain and France, meanwhile, have advocated the lifting of an E.U. arms embargo against Syria in order to arm the rebels. London and Paris say the move would bring about a swifter end to a bloody war in which at least 70,000 people have died, according to the United Nations.
But Germany and others strongly oppose the measure, fearing that it could deliver weapons into the hands of Islamist extremists.
Those fears appear to be justified by a statement issued this week by al-Qaeda’s Iragi branch, in which it claimed that Syrian rebel group al-Nusra Front was part of it.
“The idea that fewer people will die if more weapons are delivered to Syria is anything other than certain,” said Mr. Westerwelle, adding that a breakthrough or unanimous agreement at the G8 meeting was “expressly not to be expected.” Mr. Westerwelle and Mr. Hague were among the ministers who met members of the Syrian opposition, including its interim Prime Minister Ghassan Hitto, on the side lines of the London meeting on Wednesday.
Mr. Hague said afterwards that the talks had been “very productive” and welcomed “the considerable progress already made by the Syrian coalition in forming an effective and representative interim government.” Coalition vice-presidents George Sabra and Suheir al-Atassi said the assistance from Britain was making a real difference on the ground and said the two “underlined our commitment to combating extremism and upholding international law and human rights standards.”
The foreign ministers are also to discuss Mr. Hague’s “personal priority” of measures against sexual violence in conflict, as well as security in cyberspace, Myanmar, Arab Spring countries and Somalia.
The talks are part of a series of preliminary meetings ahead of a G8 summit taking place in Northern Ireland in June.