World

Swiss leader Leuthard says nation ready to play mediator role in North Korea crisis

Reuters

Neutral Switzerland is prepared to act as mediator to help resolve the North Korea crisis, including by hosting ministerial talks, Swiss President Doris Leuthard said Monday.

Leuthard said Swiss troops are deployed on the military demarcation zone between South Korea and North Korea and noted that her country — along with Sweden — has a long history of neutral and discreet diplomacy.

But China and the United States have to take their share of responsibility, she added, warning of “overreactions.”

Sanctions “did not change many things” in terms of convincing Pyongyang to abandon its weapons programs even though North Korea’s population has suffered, Leuthard said.

A day after the North’s largest nuclear test yet, Seoul said Monday it is talking to Washington about deploying aircraft carriers and strategic bombers to the Korean Peninsula after signs Pyongyang might launch more missiles.

“I think it really is time for dialogue,” Leuthard told a news conference in Bern.

” . . . We are ready to offer our role for good services as a mediator. I think in the upcoming weeks a lot will depend on how the U.S. and China can have an influence in this crisis. That’s why I think Switzerland and Sweden can have a role behind the curtain.”

Part of the task will be to find a suitable location for officials — perhaps the countries’ foreign ministers — to meet, she said.

“I think that’s our role to look at what kind of possibilities we find. Because, well, Twitter won’t be an adequate instrument. . . . This must be very discreet.”

Noting that the Communist Party congress in North Korea’s neighbor and ally China is due to take place in October, Leuthard said the time for such initiatives is not ideal, so “perhaps this was also part of the plan of North Korea.”

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un spent part of his youth in Bern studying under an assumed name.