Switzerland prepared to mediate in North Korean tensions

A photo released by the Korean News Agency showing a missile test which took place on August 29. Keystone

Switzerland has joined the international outcry against the latest North Korean nuclear test, and has offered its services as mediator for talks involving the key players.

This content was published on September 4, 2017 and agencies

Following a foreign ministry statement Sunday evening, President Doris Leuthard has pledged the willingness of Switzerland to act as mediator to help resolve the crisis, including by hosting possible ministerial talks.

Reuters quoted her as saying that “it is really time now to sit down at a table.” But, she added, “in the coming weeks it will all depend on how the US and China can have an influence in this crisis." She warned against “over-reactions.”

Her comments came a day after news emerged that the isolated Asian state had conducted its most powerful test to date of an underground hydrogen bomb – just a few days after launching a ballistic missile test over Japan.

The Swiss foreign affairs ministry criticised the test, saying that it “runs against the efforts of the international community regarding the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, and especially those efforts being made to implement the treaty that completely bans nuclear trials.”

As tensions rise in the region, and notably in Washington, where President Trump has vigorously condemned what he views as the provocations of North Korea, the foreign affairs ministry called for calm.

“Switzerland is convinced that an end to the nuclear and security problems on the Korean peninsula can only be reached in the framework of a negotiated, diplomatic process,” it said.

Diplomatic efforts

Current Swiss efforts to calm tensions in the region include an ongoing support of non-proliferation and the total elimination of nuclear weapons, including the CTBT TreatyExternal link banning all nuclear tests, negotiated in Geneva between 1994 and 1996.

North Korea, along with India and Pakistan, never signed the text. The country also pulled out of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear WeaponsExternal link (NPT) in 2003.

Switzerland, like much of the international community, also enforces a range of economic sanctions against North Korea, which it bolstered last month.

The alpine nation has also repeatedly hosted mediation talks between China, the United States and North Korea, while Swiss troops are currently deployed on the demarcation zone between South Korea and North Korea, in the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

In New York on Monday, the UN Security Council is holding its second emergency meeting in a week to discuss the response to North Korea’s missile and nuclear testing.

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