Chief diplomats' words too late to stop Myanmar

Boris Johnson and Rex Tillerson come from two different worlds but will have found much in common as they talked in the regal splendour of Lancaster House in London.

Perhaps they compared notes on the fact they are both the subject of rumours they are on the verge of resigning, because they are so fed up with their jobs.

Or they may have consoled each other knowing they are both under pressure from a chorus of critics to stand down.

They might have bonded over the fact they are both accused of being unqualified and unsuitable for their jobs.

What they have most in common, though, is a responsibility for preventing the world going to hell in a handcart at time when it appears to be accelerating in that direction. And that is surely what will have preoccupied them most.

South Korea tests its missile systems in response to Pyongyang's nuclear test
Both ministers want to deescalate the nuclear issue

Rex Tillerson has been derided as a reluctant Secretary of State – unsurprisingly after he told one journalist he only took the job because his wife told him to.

And more recently he has been criticised as an absentee one, too. America’s chief diplomat has kept a strangely low profile as his administration faced its toughest foreign policy test yet: the nuclear crisis with North Korea.

He and Boris Johnson share a mutual ambition to see a ‘denuclearised Korean Peninsula’, said the latter in a press conference on Thursday.

That betrays a common weakness for wishful thinking.

The U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at news conference in Lancaster House.

Tillerson hits out at Myanmar army

North Korea is on the threshold of becoming a fully fledged nuclear power, fulfilling a dream nurtured by three generations of the tyrannical Kim family. Most foreign policy analysts cannot see a way of stopping that happening.

There was more fantasy foreign policy with their shared hope that Libya is heading towards elections. Boris Johnson called it a realistic prospect within 12 months.

Most who know the country and its politics – dominated as it is by myriad armed factions – will find that belief wildly optimistic.

They also discussed the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya in Myanmar.

Rohingya children escaping violence on the Bangladesh-Myanmar border

Myanmar accused of ‘textbook example of ethnic cleansing’

They both aimed their fire at Myanmar’s military, praised Aung San Suu Kyi’s past achievements and gave her the benefit of the doubt.

They hope she will soon speak out against the army she shares power with and shame it into stopping one of the most barbarous military operations of the 21st century.

They know that public criticism of Myanmar’s stubborn leader is only likely to be counterproductive.

They called on Myanmar to stop what Tillerson called the horrors of that campaign and, said Johnson, allow the Rohingya to return.

Diplomatic pressure will intensify to that end at the UN General Assembly next week.

But for hundreds of thousands of destitute stateless people living in squalid camps in Bangladesh it all comes too late.

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