Germany's Merkel to speak to Russia's Putin on increasing pressure on North Korea over nuke programme

German Chancellor Angela Merkel greets Russian President Vladimir Putin as he arrives for the G20 leaders summit in Hamburg, Germany, on July 7, 2017.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel greets Russian President Vladimir Putin as he arrives for the G20 leaders summit in Hamburg, Germany, on July 7, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel will speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin as part of high-level talks aimed at increasing pressure on North Korea over its nuclear programme, her spokesman said on Monday (Sept 11).

Berlin remains ready to support discussions about ways to find a peaceful solution to the crisis, spokesman Steffen Seibert told a regular government news conference, noting that Germany is one of the few countries with diplomatic ties with Pyongyang.

"That is why we have offered to be helpful in the search for new ways to de-escalate the situation," he said, hours before the UN Security Council was due to vote on a US-drafted resolution that would impose new sanctions on Pyongyang.

"The only conceivable solution is a peaceful and diplomatic one. But to achieve such a solution, the pressure on North Korea must be increased."

Dr Merkel has already discussed the issue with US President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron, South Korean President Moon Jae In and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and also planned a telephone call with Mr Putin, he said.

North Korea was condemned globally for conducting its sixth nuclear test on Sept 3, which it said was of an advanced hydrogen bomb.

Dr Merkel told the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper on Sunday she was ready to become involved in a diplomatic initiative to end the North Korean nuclear and missiles programme, and suggested the Iran nuclear talks could be a model.

Germany and the five countries on the United Nations Security Council with veto power took part in talks that led to Iran agreeing a landmark deal in 2015 to curb its nuclear work in return for the lifting of most economic sanctions.

Mr Seibert said there had been no concrete request for Germany's help in initiating discussions over the North Korean crisis.

Dr Merkel, one of the world's longest-serving democratic leaders, is expected to win a fourth term in office in a Sept 24 vote, with polls giving her conservatives a double-digit lead over their main centre-left rivals.

Dr Merkel is widely seen in Germany as a safe pair of hands at a time of global uncertainty such as the North Korea crisis, Britain's looming departure from the European Union and Mr Trump's presidency in the United States.