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North Korea, Syria High On G8 Agenda

  • RFE/RL

G8 foreign ministers pose for a group photograph ahead of their meeting at Lancaster House in London on April 11.

G8 foreign ministers pose for a group photograph ahead of their meeting at Lancaster House in London on April 11.

Foreign ministers from the Group of Eight most-developed nations have condemned "in the strongest possible terms" North Korea's nuclear activities.

In a communique issued at their London meeting on April 11, the ministers also urged Pyongyang to "refrain from further provocative acts" and warned of “further significant measures” in event of a missile launch.

"If the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] conducts another missile launch or nuclear test, we committed ourselves to take further significant measures. We make clear in the text of our agreement, of our communique, that [G8] ministers supported the commitment to strengthen the current sanctions regime and take further significant measures in the event of a further launch or nuclear test by the DPRK," British Foreign Secretary William Hague told a news conference after the talks. "We also condemn DPRK's current aggressive rhetoric and confirm that this will only serve further to isolate the DPRK."

Earlier in the day in Seoul, South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said the country is ready to thwart any attack by North Korean missiles.

"If North Korean missiles fly in the shooting range of our Patriot missiles, we can shoot them down," Kim said.

His statement came as South Korean intelligence has said it believes North Korea may have prepared two mid-range missiles for imminent launch from its east coast.

Pyongyang has issued a series of threats against South Korea and the United States since United Nations sanctions were tightened on North Korea following its third nuclear test in February.

The threats also come as the North prepares to mark the April 15 anniversary of the birth of the nation’s founder, Kim Il Sung, grandfather of current ruler Kim Jong Un.

Syrian Concerns

On Syria, the statement by the G8 foreign ministers "expressed deep concerns about the increasing human tragedy” there.

More than 60,000 people are estimated to have died since the uprising against the government of President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011.

The G8 ministers called on all countries to maximize their contributions to the latest UN appeals for humanitarian aid for Syria, and urged all sides in the conflict to respect human rights.

The communique added that any use of chemical weapons "would demand a serious international response."

The London gathering also included discussions on the failure of last week's meeting in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on curbing Iran's nuclear program.

"The recent talks between the E3+3 and Iran on its nuclear program -- that outcome was disappointing as Teheran's position falls short of what is needed for a breakthrough on this subject," Hague said. "We will continue to work with the twin track approach of sanctions and negotiations but many ministers were clear that the window for diplomacy will not remain open forever."

The G8 also pledged to work to end sexual violence in conflicts.

At a separate news conference, Hague said the ministers agreed on setting up an international framework for investigating and prosecuting rape and that there would never be amnesties for sexual violence in peace treaties.

"We've made a historic declaration that rape and serious sexual violence in conflict are grave breaches of the Geneva Convention as well as war crimes," Hague said. "This gives us the responsibility actively to search for, prosecute or hand over for trial anyone accused of these crimes, regardless of their nationality, wherever they are in the world. We need to shrink and then to eradicate safe heavens for those responsible for war-zone rape and this is a step towards doing that."

Hague added that G8 countries had pledged almost $36 million to tackle the issue.

The Group of Eight nations comprises Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the United States.

Based on reporting by AFP, Reuters, and AP