30 Apr 2017

Pope urges mediation to avert war with North Korea

1:12 pm on 30 April 2017

Pope Francis says a third country such as Norway should try to mediate the dispute between North Korea and the US, to cool a situation that has become "too hot" and posed a risk of nuclear devastation.

Pope Francis speaks to the press from aboard his plane on April 29, 2017, on his return flight from Cairo to Rome.

Pope Francis speaks to the press from aboard his plane. Photo: AFP

He said he believed "a good part of humanity" would be destroyed in any widespread war.

Speaking to reporters aboard the plane taking him back from a visit to Egypt, Pope Francis also said he was ready to meet US President Donald Trump when he is in Europe next month but that he was not aware that Washington had made a request for a meeting.

Francis said the United Nations should re-assert its leadership in world diplomacy because it had become "too watered down".

"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," he said about the North Korea crisis.

Representatives for the White House did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Francis spoke after North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned that failure to curb Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic missile programmes could lead to "catastrophic consequences".

"There are so many facilitators in the world, there are mediators who offer themselves, such as Norway for example," Pope Francis said.

"It (Norway) is always ready to help. That is just one but there are many. But the path is the path of negotiations, of a diplomatic solution."

Norway secretly negotiated an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians known as the Oslo Accords in the early 1990s.

The pope expressed his deep concern over the crisis.

"This question of missiles in (North) Korea has been brewing for more than a year but now it seems the situation has become has become too hot.

"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.

"It would be terrible. I don't think that humanity today would be able to withstand it."

Trump is due in Sicily at the end of May for a meeting of the heads of the world's richest nations. The White House has not yet said if he would be stopping in Rome to meet the pope, which would be an unusual omission for a visiting head of state.

Asked if he would be meeting Mr Trump, the pope said he had not yet been informed if a request had been made, but that he received every head of state who asks form an audience.


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