Mon Sep 4, 2017 02:30PM
Swiss President Doris Leuthard (Photo by Reuters)
Swiss President Doris Leuthard (Photo by Reuters)

The Swiss president says her country is prepared to act as mediator to help peacefully resolve the current standoff between North Korea and some other countries over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs, including by hosting ministerial talks in the small Alpine federal republic.

President Doris Leuthard made the remarks in a press conference in the Swiss capital Bern on Monday, adding that her government was ready to offer its “good services” as a mediator to help defuse the heightened tensions in the Korean Peninsula.

“I think in the upcoming weeks a lot will depend on how the US and China can have an influence in this crisis,” she said, adding that Beijing and Washington had to take their share of responsibility in settling the escalating crisis without exerting “over-reactions.”

Leuthard further said that Swiss troops were already deployed on the highly fortified demarcation zone between South Korea and North Korea as peacekeepers, adding that Switzerland, along with Sweden, had a long history of neutral and discreet diplomacy.  

“Perhaps these actions of North Korea are also an invitation for dialogue: We’ll see,” the Swiss leader further said, noting that the time is ripe for dialogue.

Many reports say that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un spent a few years of his youth in Bern studying under an assumed name.

The Swiss leader also touched upon the issue of sanctions against Pyongyang, saying that they “did not change many things” in terms of convincing the North to abandon its weapons programs.

Leuthard’s comments came a day after Pyongyang sent shockwaves across the world by detonating a hydrogen bomb, which is said to be the most powerful weapon it has ever tested. The bomb was also some three times more powerful than the US atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945.

This picture released by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on September 3, 2017, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (C) looking at a metal casing with two bulges. (Via AFP)

China, Russia and South Korea are among the nations that have voiced strong criticism of the North's sixth nuclear test. US President Donald Trump also described Pyongyang as a “rogue nation” which had become a “great threat and embarrassment” to China – North Korea's main ally.

Experts on North Korea have already warned that aggressive rhetoric could backfire on Trump, convincing Pyongyang that it is in imminent danger and triggering what he sees as a pre-emptive attack.

After Pyongyang’s test, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping agreed on the importance of deescalating the situation on the Korean Peninsula, saying they would “appropriately deal with” North Korea’s sixth and most powerful nuclear test.

The Kremlin also warned against taking any “clumsy steps” in dealing with North Korea, saying this would only escalate the tensions.

This picture from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) taken on August 29, 2017 and released on August 30, 2017 shows North Korea's intermediate-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 lifting off from the launching pad at an undisclosed location near Pyongyang. (Via AFP)

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have heightened since Washington recently engineered tougher sanctions in the United Nations Security Council over the North’s testing of two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM).

On Monday, the South Korean military said that the North was preparing for another missile launch, possibly an ICBM test. Earlier in the day, the South conducted a live-fire ballistic missile exercise, simulating an attack on the North’s main nuclear site.

North Korea is under mounting international pressure over its missile and military nuclear programs and has been subjected to an array of United Nations sanctions. But it says it needs to continue and develop the programs as a deterrent against hostility by the US and its regional allies, including South Korea and Japan.