The US and Canada are bringing together foreign ministers from around 20 nations on Tuesday in Vancouver to discuss security and stability on the Korean Peninsula. It's strange that many of the countries invited are not stakeholders in the situation, but those who participated under UN Command during the Korean War (1950-53). Washington seems to be reviving the long-forgotten multinational military alliance.
Yet the international community harbors little hope that the meeting can bear fruit as China, Russia and North Korea are not invited. There is widespread speculation about what the US hopes to achieve out of such a meeting.
The US and Canada were abruptly announced as co-hosts of the meeting on December 19 during US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's visit to Canada. Washington apparently has more intentions than simply reflecting on the 1950s war by bringing together nations that sent troops to the peninsula over 60 years ago while bypassing those highly relevant nations amid tensions in the region.
First of all, Washington wants to pressure Pyongyang by signaling that it is indeed preparing to use force. Those invited countries, no matter how many troops they sent, were participants in the Korean War.
Attending this meeting, they may not mean to repeat their actions, but Washington can thus tell Pyongyang that they stand ready to follow the US onto the peninsula.
Having had China and Russia demand it talk to North Korea, the US wants to justify the high pressure it has exerted on North Korea and get others' endorsement for its policy on the peninsula.
Among the invitees are traditional US allies like Britain, Australia and New Zealand, and nations that have no relation to the nuclear issue but can be easily manipulated by the US, such as Ethiopia and Columbia.
While the US finds it too hard to manipulate the UN Security Council, with the Vancouver meeting Washington wants to highlight its dominant role in resolving the North Korean nuclear issue and cripple the clout of China and Russia. Washington can say these 20-some nations stand for the international community to make its extremely hard-line stance against Pyongyang more legitimate.
But the meeting will likely accomplish little. Over the peninsula, only international decisions made under the UN framework are legal and valid. No one can stop the US from pressuring North Korea to the utmost, but Washington will eventually be held accountable if war breaks out or even worse, nuclear weapons are employed.
The Donald Trump administration may possibly be holding the Vancouver meeting for his domestic audience. With a more hawkish policy toward North Korea than previous administrations, Trump has pushed US-North Korea confrontation toward a high-stakes climax. Hawaii's false missile alert on Saturday set off wide-scale panic. Washington needs more support for its policy from countries beyond Japan and South Korea.
The recent Seoul-Pyongyang détente over the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games has placed the Vancouver meeting in a somewhat awkward position. At such a meeting with ulterior motives and little authority, what attendees need to do is just clap their hands for the organizers.