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Swiss renew criticism of North Korea at UN

The seismic wave suspected to have been caused by the test was recorded by Japan

(Keystone Archive)

Switzerland has again condemned the alleged North Korean nuclear weapon test and voiced its concerns that there could be another arms race.

The comments were made on Wednesday by the Swiss ambassador to the United Nations, Peter Maurer, at the General Assembly in New York.

The UN is considering what action to take against North Korea, which claimed to have performed the test on Monday.

US diplomats are said to be circulating a new draft of a UN resolution to impose sanctions on the communist state. The draft should be presented to the UN on Thursday.

In his speech, Maurer said that Pyongyang's test had not only threatened the security of the region but could start a spiral of events that could get out of control.

Maurer called on North Korea to rejoin the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty it left in 2003 as soon as possible. He added that he hoped a solution to the crisis could be found through negotiations with six nations – North and South Korea, China, the US, Russia and Japan.

The ambassador also underlined that countries with nuclear weapons should respect their commitments to disarmament. He said there had been some progress but there was still a difference between the promises made and actual implementation.

Government stance

Maurer's comments followed an earlier statement by the Swiss government on Monday condemning the test and announcing that Switzerland was ready to support UN sanctions against Pyongyang.

In a strongly worded communiqué, the Swiss authorities described North Korea's actions as "counter to international efforts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons".

The alleged test caused an international outcry. The US is expected to push for sanctions on Thursday but could face opposition from China.

A UN Security Council vote on the resolution could come on Friday, when the leaders of China and South Korea, on which Pyongyang relies for economic aid and a level of diplomatic protection, are due to meet in Beijing.

Analysts say both countries are anxious to avoid antagonising the reclusive North, which has a 1.2 million-strong army, as this could trigger instability on the Korean peninsula, which has been divided for more than half a century.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Swiss military personnel have been stationed on the border between the two Koreas since 1953, as part of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission in Korea (NNSC).

Switzerland has no diplomatic representation in North Korea.

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), a unit of the foreign ministry, has an office in Pyongyang, where it coordinates Swiss cooperation activities in the country.

In May 2003, Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey became the first foreign government official to cross the demarcation line between North and South Korea (see related stories).

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