Germany has summoned North Korea’s emissary for talks in Berlin while Switzerland has offered to play a mediating role in the crisis. Tensions have risen dramatically after Pyongyang staged its largest nuclear test yet.
After North Korea conducted its sixth and largest nuclear test to date, Germany’s Foreign Office called for a meeting with Pyongyang’s representative in Berlin on Monday afternoon.
German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement that both Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron called for stricter European Union sanctions against North Korea. In the statement, Seibert noted that Pyongyang’s latest test “reached a new dimension” in provocation.
The United Nations Security Council convened an emergency meeting in New York on Monday to vote on a response to the North’s latest nuclear test.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley warned during the meeting that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is “begging for war” and urged for the Security Council to approve the “strongest possible measures” to publish Pyongyang.
“War is never something the United States wants – we don’t want it now, but our country’s patience is not unlimited,” Haley said.
Switzerland steps up as mediator
Switzerland offered to act as a mediator to help resolve the rising tensions in the North Korea crisis, casting doubt on whether further sanctions would have any effect on Pyongyang.
Swiss President Doris Leuthard noted that both Switzerland and Sweden have a long history of neutral and discreet diplomacy with North Korea. Pyongyang’s leader Kim Jong Un also once studied in Switzerland.
She said: “We are ready to also offer our role for good services as a mediator, and in the coming weeks it will all depend on how the US and China can have an influence in this crisis.”
“I think it really is time for dialogue,” Leuthard told reporters in Berne.
Worries about further missile launches
Earlier on Monday, South Korea’s defense ministry said Pyongyang is preparing for more ballistic missile launches – prompting fears across the region and the beyond.
“We have continued to see signs of possibly more ballistic missile launches. We also forecast North Korea could fire an intercontinental ballistic missile,” Chang Kyung-soo, a defense ministry official, told South Korea’s parliament in a special hearing.
On Sunday Pyongyang said it had tested a hydrogen bomb that can be loaded onto an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). If confirmed, it would be the most powerful device ever tested by North Korea.
The defense ministry said North Korea’s nuclear test on Sunday was measured at 50 kilotons, or 50,000 metric tons of TNT, marking its strongest to date.
Additional defense measures
Seoul responded to the nuclear test by conducting live-fire drills on Monday, staging a simulated attack on Pyonyang’s main nuclear site.
South Korea’s defense ministry also noted that it will install additional launchers of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, which has been heavily criticized by China.
“Four remaining launchers will soon be temporarily deployed through consultations between South Korea and the US to counter growing nuclear and missile threats from the North,” the defense ministry said in a statement.
‘Massive military response’
Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary James Mattis said Washington will respond with a “massive” retaliation to any threat to the US or its allies in the region.
“Any threat to the United States or its territories, including Guam, or our allies will be met with a massive military response, a response both effective and overwhelming,” Mattis said.
The US was “not looking to the total annihilation of a country,” but had “many options to do so,” Mattis added. Mattis’ remarks came as the White House considered an appropriate response to the escalating crisis.
US President Donald Trump was briefed on all possible military options against North Korea during a meeting with his national security team on Sunday, Mattis said.
South Korea’s “talk of appeasement” with North Korea will not work, Trump said, adding that Pyongyang will “only understand one thing.”
‘Undermines peace and security’
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, agreed to “appropriately deal with” North Korea’s nuclear test, China’s state news agency Xinhua reported.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said North Korea’s “nuclear and missile development programs pose a new level of a grave and immediate threat” and “seriously undermines the peace and security of the region.” Abe also called Trump to discuss the test, according to a White House statement issued late on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull responded to the nuclear test by describing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as “cruel and evil,” adding that China could do more to stop his aggression.