Noting that the “situation has become too hot” in the Korean peninsula, Pope Francis said that the world is on the brink of war, which can only be averted through diplomacy.
“We are talking about the future of humanity. Today, a widespread war would destroy – I would not say half of humanity – but a good part of humanity, and of culture, everything, everything,” Francis said Saturday. “It would be terrible. I don’t think that humanity today would be able to withstand it.”
“I call on, and will call on, all leaders, as I have called on leaders of various places, to work to seek a solution to problems through the path of diplomacy,” the pontiff said about the North Korea crisis, speaking aboard his plane as he returned to Rome from a trip to Egypt.
Remembering that Norway was influential in organizing the Oslo Accords which resulted in an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, the leader of the Catholic world suggested that smaller nations could play a role in solving the crisis.
“There are so many facilitators in the world, there are mediators who offer themselves, such as Norway, for example,” he said. “That is just one but there are many. But the path is the path of negotiations, of a diplomatic solution.”
Tensions once again escalated on the Korean Peninsula on Saturday after the North conducted yet another failed test of its ballistic rocket technology. On early Saturday morning, Pyongyang test-fired a projectile presumed to be a KN-17 medium-range ballistic missile, which reportedly broke up and exploded within minutes of the launch.
The missile test was conducted as US kicked off joint naval exercises with South Korea just after the US aircraft carrier group led by the USS Carl Vinson entered the Sea of Japan through the Tsusima Strait.
Speaking about North Korea on Saturday, Trump noted that neither China nor the US would welcome a further North Korean nuclear test. For some time now, it has been speculated that Pyongyang is getting ready to conduct its sixth nuclear test.
“I would not be happy,” Trump said in a CBS interview for Sunday’s Face the Nation. “If he [Kim Jong-un] does a nuclear test, I will not be happy. And I can tell you also I don’t believe that the president of China, who is a very respected man, will be happy either.”
When asked if the sixth Korean nuclear test would prompt American military action, Trump responded: “I don’t know. I mean, we’ll see.”
Earlier this week, in an interview to Reuters, Trump said that a major conflict could break out in the region.
“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely,” Trump told Reuters. “We’d love to solve things diplomatically, but it’s very difficult.”
Just before North Korea conducted its latest missile test, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the UN Security Council that the military option remains on the table for the US to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear program.
“All options for responding to future provocations must remain on the table,” Tillerson told the 15-member international body on Friday. “Diplomatic and financial leverage or power will be backed up by willingness to counteract North Korean aggression with military action, if necessary.”
In the meantime, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said that Moscow supports China’s initiative to deescalate tensions around the Korean peninsula by calling on North Korea to refrain from carrying out further missile and nuclear tests in exchange for the US and South Korea suspending their military exercises in the region.
“Members of the [UN] Security Council have unanimously called upon DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] to stop missile and nuclear tests and to fulfil UNSC resolutions,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Saturday following a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) session held in New York on Friday.
“In this context, the Russian Federation supported a Chinese proposal for a ‘double suspension’ (Pyongyang is to stop missile and nuclear tests and the US and South Korean militaries are to halt drills near North Korea) as a starting point for political negotiations.”
Earlier, while addressing the UN Security Council, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged a peaceful solution to the Korean crisis.
“The use of force does not resolve differences, and will only lead to bigger disasters,” Wang noted, adding that “as the only way out, dialogue and negotiation also represent the sensible choice for all parties.”
“Our past experience of resolving the nuclear issue on the Peninsula shows, whenever dialogue and negotiation were ongoing, the situation on the Peninsula would maintain basic stability and efforts toward denuclearization could make progress,” said the minister, as quoted by Xinhua.