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Switzerland condemns North Korea nuclear test

South Koreans woke up to unpleasant news on Monday's front pages

(Keystone)

The Swiss government has condemned a nuclear test carried out by North Korea, and said Switzerland is ready to support United Nations sanctions against Pyongyang.

The foreign ministry statement came after North Korea announced on Monday that it had carried out an underground nuclear test.

In a strongly worded communiqué, the Swiss government described the reported test as "counter to international efforts to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and a threat to the security of the region".

Neutral Switzerland also agreed to support binding sanctions, should they be imposed by the UN Security Council, which has already scheduled meetings to discuss what action to take.

The Swiss reaction followed similar condemnation by world powers, including the United States. President Bush called on the Security Council to deliver an "immediate response" to the test.

Japan said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Bush agreed on decisive UN action.

China, Pyongyang's strongest and economic backer, said the claimed test went against the universal opposition of the international society.

The current Security Council President Kenzo Oshima of Japan urged North Korea to refrain from further testing.

Embargo

The US and Japan are expected to push for immediate sanctions against Pyongyang. Analysts say these could extend to an import/export embargo on military equipment, the severing of diplomatic ties, and possibly even a naval blockade of the northern part of the peninsula which lies between South Korea and China.

Other nations, including Britain and France, also condemned the test, with those countries' UN ambassadors calling for a Security Council resolution which includes the threat of sanctions.

New UN boss

Before discussing North Korea, the Security Council nominated South Korea's foreign minister, Ban Ki-Moon, as the new UN secretary-general to replace Kofi Annan. His appointment must now be approved by the General Assembly.

Before the test, Ban said one of his first acts would be to go to North Korea. The peninsula has been divided into a communist northern half and a free-market south since a ceasefire was agreed in 1953.

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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