Merkel offers German role in Iran-style nuclear talks with North Korea


Angela Merkel has offered German participation in any future nuclear talks with North Korea and suggested that the 2015 agreement with Iran could serve as a model for negotiations.

The chancellor’s intervention reflects growing alarm in Europe that Donald Trump is worsening one nuclear crisis by repeated threats to use military force against North Korea, and seeking to trigger a second one by torpedoing the Iran deal to which Germany, France and the UK are among the signatories.

“If our participation in talks is desired, I will immediately say yes,” Merkel told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung in an interview published on Sunday.

She pointed to the example of the agreement sealed in Vienna in July 2015 by Iran, the five permanent members of the UN security council and Germany, describing it as “a long but important time of diplomacy” that ultimately had a good end.

“I could imagine such a format being used to end the North Korea conflict. Europeand especially Germany should be prepared to play a very active part in that,” Merkel said.

In exchange for sanctions relief under the Vienna deal, Iran accepted strict limits on its nuclear programme as a reassurance to the international community that it could never build a bomb. North Korea, on the other hand, is believed to already have a nuclear arsenal which it insists is not up for negotiation.

Kim Jong-un hosted an elaborate banquet in Pyongyang over the weekend for military leaders, scientists and technicians to celebrate the country’s sixth and most powerful nuclear test. The regime says the underground blast on 3 September was a two-stage thermonuclear device, or hydrogen bomb.

The state news agency, KCNA, published photographs on Sunday showing Kim beaming with two of the scientific minds behind the country’s surprisingly fast progress – Ri Hong Sop, the head of the country’s nuclear weapons institute, and Hong Sung Mu, the deputy director of the ruling party’s munitions industry department.

The UN security council will convene on Monday to consider a US resolution that would impose an embargo on oil exports to North Korea and technical imports from the embattled state, as well as a partial naval blockade giving UN member states the right to board and inspect ships suspected of sanctions-busting.

China and Russia are expected to try to water down the resolution, while European council members are nervous that the Trump administration could consequently abandon the council as a forum for dealing with the North Korea crisis if it does not get its way. Continue reading.