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Swiss press decries North Korea nuclear test

The papers see North Korea's announcement as a provocation


The Swiss press has condemned North Korea's announcement that it has defied international warnings and carried out a nuclear test.

Newspaper editorials reflected on the difficult steps ahead and the possible responses of the world powers with their limited options.

On Monday North Korea announced that it had carried out an underground nuclear test. The Swiss government condemned the test and said it was ready to support United Nations sanctions against Pyongyang.

The Swiss reaction followed similar condemnation by world powers, including the United States, China, Japan and South Korea.

The Geneva-based Le Temps said in its editorial the North Korean leader Kim Jong-il was now more isolated than ever and had committed political suicide. The "paranoid tyrannical leader" had taken his "nuclear blackmail" strategy to its limits.

"The biggest danger" wrote the Bern newspaper Der Bund, "is that Asia has become a nuclear continent. Japan, South Korea and Taiwan will probably also start to build nuclear defences if the dictator in Pyongyang is not stopped quickly."

The main problem, according to Le Temps, is that "no one really knows what is going on within the upper echelons of North Korean power".

The Basler Zeitung agreed that the Kim Jong-Il's unpredictability made the news of the nuclear test all the more terrifying.

"It's a sign of his great cynicism, using the country's limited resources to develop an atomic bomb instead of rebuilding his poor nation," it added.

The Zurich-based Neuer Zürcher Zeitung said that while diplomats and politicians around the world viewed the test as "unacceptable", there was also a sense that the "enigmatic North Korean regime" did what it wanted.

"What should outrage us more - the arrogance with which Pyongyang celebrates its policy of blackmail, or the powerlessness of the rest of the world to counter it?" it asked.

The Fribourg-based newspaper La Liberté drew a parallel between the nomination yesterday of the new UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon and the North Korean test.

"The head of the UN in the south, and nuclear power in the north," it commented. "This coincidence symbolises the terrible contradictions in Asia and, in a wider sense, those facing international security mechanisms."

Non-proliferation failure

"The survival of the North Korean authorities shows the absurdity of the current nuclear non-proliferation strategy and sends a dangerous signal to future sorcerers' apprentices," said Le Temps.

The Tages-Anzeiger agreed: "The international system of nuclear weapons controls has been severely challenged, and US, South Korean and Chinese diplomacy has failed."

Le Temps said the ball was now in China's court to act to or risk losing all credibility as "new pacifying power" in the region. China had no other choice for now, it added, but to align itself with the US strategy of harsher sanctions.

The Italian-speaking newspaper Le Corriere del Ticino also pointed to China's role in the crisis: "Chinese mediation is the only real means of exerting pressure, as they provide Pyongyang, their historic ally, with food and petrol."

The Tages-Anzeiger supported this line, stating the situation calls for prudence and "a combination of pressure from North Korea's would-be friends, mainly China, and signs of compromise from Washington".

swissinfo, Simon Bradley

Chronology of crisis

2002: North Korea expels International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors from its territory.

2003: Pyongyang withdraws from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT).

2004: Negotiations fail with China, North Korea, South Korea, the US, Japan and Russia.

July 5 – North Korea carries out a long-range missile test.
July 15 – The UN Security Council imposes sanctions.
October 9 – North Korea carries out its first nuclear test, making it the eighth nuclear power.
October 10 - The five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Japan meet to discuss the council's response to the North Korea nuclear test, and in particular to study a 13-point US resolution.

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