LONDON – Foreign ministers from eight of the world’s leading economies denounced North Korea’s increasingly bellicose rhetoric “in the strongest possible terms” Thursday and warned the isolated Asian nation that they would step up sanctions if it conducts another missile launch or nuclear test.
The top diplomats from the Group of 8 countries also expressed concern that the crisis in Syria continues to worsen, with British Foreign Secretary William Hague calling it the greatest humanitarian disaster so far in the 21st century.
At the close of a two-day meeting in London, the ministers described North Korea’s recent actions and words as a threat to international stability that would “only serve to further isolate” the country. In a joint statement, officials pledged to “take further significant measures” against Pyongyang in the event of more “provocations.”
Hague said those measures would entail beefing up the sanctions regime already in place. But he added that world leaders were trying to be careful to respond in a way that would not fuel the “paranoid rhetoric” emanating from Pyongyang.
The G-8 ministers’ communique also stated their concern over North Korea’s intention to reopen its Yongbyon nuclear facility.
Regarding Syria, ongoing differences between the West and Russia meant that the ministers were unable to agree on any joint plan to increase assistance to the rebels trying to overthrow President Bashar Assad. Both Russia and China have refused to call on Assad to step down.
About 70,000 people are believed to have died in the conflict, and another 1 million have fled the country.
“We all remain deeply concerned about the human tragedy that is continuing to unfold there,” Hague told reporters. “We agreed that our immediate priorities are increasing humanitarian access, ensuring that donors who generously pledged their support … fulfill their commitments and supporting stability in the countries that are providing shelter to refugees.”
He did not disguise his frustration over the lack of strong action by the G-8 or by the United Nations Security Council, a body on which both Moscow and Beijing wield veto power.
“The world has failed so far in its responsibilities and continues to do so,” Hague said. “It is a major failing.”
He also expressed alarm over reports that one rebel group of Islamic fighters in Syria, Al Nusra Front, has declared its affiliation with Al Qaeda.
“We are concerned that Syria is now the No. 1 destination for jihadists in the world,” Hague said. “Advantage can be taken of this situation by foreign fighters attracted to the area and the conflict. That’s part of the case for trying to help bring it to a conclusion as soon as possible.”