Group of Seven foreign ministers started a two-day meeting Sunday in Toronto, Canada, with Japan poised to ensure close G-7 coordination in maintaining maximum pressure and crippling sanctions on North Korea to compel it to abandon its nuclear and missile programs.
The meeting came a day after North Korea said it will suspend nuclear tests and long-range missiles launches, as well as dismantle its only known nuclear test site, with leader Kim Jong Un playing a card prior to his meeting Friday with South Korean President Moon Jae In and with U.S. President Donald Trump, expected in late May or early June.
The move by Kim, however, falls short of the demand by the United States, Japan and other countries that Pyongyang abandon all weapons of mass destruction and its ballistic missile program, including short- and medium-range missiles capable of hitting South Korea and Japan.
During talks Saturday, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and his Canadian counterpart Chrystia Freeland — who presides over the G-7 meeting — affirmed they will never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea and agreed Pyongyang’s latest pronouncement was not sufficient to meet the demands of the international community.
Kono said the announcement, which critics see as an attempt to win relief from U.N. sanctions, will not weaken the resolve of the international community, including the G-7, to achieve a complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea.
The Toronto session, which brings together the foreign ministers of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States, will lay the groundwork for the G-7 leaders’ summit June 8-9 in Charlevoix, Quebec.
Aside from North Korea, the G-7 ministers plan to discuss the Trump administration’s push to revise the Iran nuclear deal. Trump has threatened to withdraw the United States if an agreement with European allies to revamp the deal cannot be reached before the May 12 deadline set by the U.S. president.
The deal was struck in 2015 between Iran and six major powers — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States under the administration of Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama.
The G-7 ministers are also likely to take up the Syria crisis following the U.S.-led airstrikes earlier this month on sites associated with the country’s chemical weapons capabilities.
The military action by the United States, Britain and France came after the alleged use by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime of chemical weapons on Syrian citizens.
The G-7 is expected to touch on Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and China’s assertive territorial claims in the East and South China seas, as well as issues like gender equality and women’s empowerment, according to the Canadian government.