Chancellor Merkel suggests Germany should join North Korea talks

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during an election campaign event of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party in Delbrueck-Steinhorst, Germany, on Sept 10, 2017.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during an election campaign event of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party in Delbrueck-Steinhorst, Germany, on Sept 10, 2017. PHOTO: EPA

BRUSSELS (NYTIMES) - In what the Germans themselves are calling a "sleep campaign," Chancellor Angela Merkel, seeking a fourth term in office in elections on Sept 24, has moved to highlight her international status by calling for a new round of negotiations with North Korea - including Germany.

Already hailed by some in the era of President Donald Trump as the main defender of the West and its values, Merkel has stepped forward to suggest a diplomatic alternative to the aggressive language being exchanged between Washington and North Korea.

As ever, she made her point by responding to a question. "If we were asked to join talks, I would say yes immediately," Merkel said in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung published on Sunday (Sept 10).

She made a parallel to the multilateral talks with Iran over its nuclear programme.

Those talks were begun by the Europeans and later expanded to include the permanent five member states of the UN Security Council, plus Germany, and chaired by the European Union's foreign policy chief.

In the end, the Iran talks became predominantly a negotiation between the United States and Iran. But they were supported and confirmed by the others, which gave Washington cover for sensitive talks with Teheran.

Merkel called that negotiation period "a long but important time of diplomacy" that ultimately had a "good end" last year, referring to when the deal was put in place.

"I could imagine such a format being used to end the North Korea conflict," she said. "Europe and especially Germany should be prepared to play a very active part in that."

During the presidential campaign, Trump said his "number one priority" if elected would be "to dismantle the disastrous deal."

In office, Trump has talked about not recertifying Iran's compliance. But the other signatories, like Merkel, regard the deal as a breakthrough, halting Iranian progress toward a nuclear weapon for at least a decade.

Merkel said she believed that the only way to deal with North Korea's nuclear programme effectively is to come to a diplomatic solution, adding: "A new arms race starting in the region would not be in anyone's interests."