G8 Foreign Ministers Meeting 2013: North Korea, Syria Dominate Discussion


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the foreign ministers of France, Germany, Canada, Russia, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom collectively condemned North Korea's nuclear threats and failed to come up with a solution to the Syrian crisis.

U.K. foreign secretary William Hague summarized the G8's clear military counterthreat, stating, "if the DPRK [North Korea] conducts another missile launch or nuclear test, we have committed ourselves to take further significant measures."

This aggressive stance comes after weeks of North Korean blustering threats against South Korea, U.S. naval and military bases in the Pacific, and Japan, which went into the meeting publicly aiming for solidarity against increased North Korean aggression.

Despite the solidarity achieved in the stand against North Korea, no agreements were reached on the Syrian crisis. G8 leaders did not come to a conclusion on how to address the stalemate in Syria, and voiced support for a "Syrian-led political transition," hinting that the G8 countries are not likely to provide military support to the opposition.

By clarifying that the transition will be Syrian-led, the G8 seems to be doubling down on American-led efforts to negotiate with President Bashar al-Assad to accept the current situation and step down. Syrian ally Russia clearly made its impact felt during the G8 talks, and the lack of commitment from the countries prompted U.K. foreign secretary to surmise that the "world has failed" Syria and "continues to do so" as Syrian military continues to indiscriminately attack civilians and opposition forces in order to retain power.

Syrian casualties are now hitting the 70,000 mark in its third year. Despite the lack of actionable military support, the G8 ministers have unanimously called for humanitarian aid and solidified their support for UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi as the sole hope as arbiter of a political transition in Syria.

Western nations are increasingly moving towards providing increased non-military aid to the Syrian opposition, including body armor and night-vision goggles, and Britain and France indicated that they would be willing to allow the European Union embargo to expire at the end of May, allowing them flexibility to provide additional support to the Syrian opposition.

Many argue that the U.S.' reluctance to supply arms to the opposition, even to thoroughly examined officials that would be watched under strict scrutiny, has kept the opposition from making real progress against the Syrian military that is being supplied arms and missiles from allies like Iran and Russia. The opposition is a rebel force after all, and despite its strategic victories in small towns, is continually being pushed back by the Syrian military's armed might which has allowed President Bashar al-Assad to hold on to power.