Germany summons North Korea representative amidst missile launch threats

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00:49 mins.
10.08.2017

North Koreans strike a defiant note

Germany has summoned North Korea's emissary for talks in Berlin after Pyongyang staged its largest nuclear test yet. Meanwhile Switzerland has offered to play a mediating role in the crisis.

After North Korea conducted its sixth and largest nuclear test to date, Germany's Foreign Office called for a meeting with Pyongyang's representative in Berlin on Monday afternoon.

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement that both Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron called for stricter European Union sanctions against North Korea. In the statement, Seibert noted that Pyongyang's latest test "reached a new dimension" in provocation.

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01:53 mins.
DW News | 04.09.2017

US has stark warning for North Korean leader

The United Nations Security Council convened an emergency meeting in New York on Monday to vote on a response to the North's latest nuclear test.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley warned during the meeting that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is "begging for war" and urged for the Security Council to approve the "strongest possible measures" to publish Pyongyang.

"War is never something the United States wants - we don't want it now, but our country's patience is not unlimited," Haley said.

Switzerland steps up as mediator

Switzerland offered to act as a mediator to help resolve the rising tensions in the North Korea crisis, casting doubt on whether further sanctions would have any effect on Pyongyang.

Read more: Hydrogen vs atomic bomb: What's the difference?

Swiss President Doris Leuthard noted that both Switzerland and Sweden have a long history of neutral and discreet diplomacy with North Korea. Pyongyang's leader Kim Jong Un also once studied in Switzerland.

She said: "We are ready to also offer our role for good services as a mediator, and in the coming weeks it will all depend on how the US and China can have an influence in this crisis."

"I think it really is time for dialogue," Leuthard told reporters in Berne. 

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Infografik Kronologie Atomwaffentests Nordkorea ENG

Worries about further missile launches

Earlier on Monday, South Korea's defense ministry said Pyongyang is preparing for more ballistic missile launches - prompting fears across the region and the beyond.

"We have continued to see signs of possibly more ballistic missile launches. We also forecast North Korea could fire an intercontinental ballistic missile," Chang Kyung-soo, a defense ministry official, told South Korea's parliament in a special hearing.

On Sunday Pyongyang said it had tested a hydrogen bomb that can be loaded onto an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). If confirmed, it would be the most powerful device ever tested by North Korea.

The defense ministry said North Korea's nuclear test on Sunday was measured at 50 kilotons, or 50,000 metric tons of TNT, marking its strongest to date.

Additional defense measures

Seoul responded to the nuclear test by conducting live-fire drills on Monday, staging a simulated attack on Pyonyang's main nuclear site.

South Korea's defense ministry also noted that it will install additional launchers of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, which has been heavily criticized by China.

"Four remaining launchers will soon be temporarily deployed through consultations between South Korea and the US to counter growing nuclear and missile threats from the North," the defense ministry said in a statement.

The truth and myths of the Kim dynasty

A young leader

Kim Il Sung, the first and "eternal" president of North Korea, took power in 1948 with the support of the Soviet Union. The official calendar in North Korea begins with his birth year, 1912, designating it "Juche 1" after the state's Juche ideology. He was 41 when, as shown here, he signed the 1953 armistice that effectively ended the Korean War.

The truth and myths of the Kim dynasty

Hero worship

In the years and decades after the war, Pyongyang's propaganda machine worked hard to weave a mythical narrative around Kim Il Sung. His childhood and the time he spent fighting Japanese troops in the 1930s were embellished to portray him as an unrivaled military and political genius. At the 1980 party congress, Kim announced he would be succeeded by his son, Kim Jong Il.

The truth and myths of the Kim dynasty

Ruling to the end

In 1992, Kim Il Sung started writing and publishing his memoirs, entitled "Reminiscences: With the Century." Describing his childhood, the North Korean leader claims that he first joined an anti-Japanese rally at 6 years old and became involved with the independence struggle at 8. The memoirs remained unfinished at Kim Il Sung's death in 1994.

The truth and myths of the Kim dynasty

In his father's footsteps

After spending years in the top tiers of the regime, Kim Jong Il took power after his father's death. Kim Jong Il's 16-year rule was marked by famine and economic crisis in an already impoverished country. However, the cult of personality surrounding him and his father, Kim Il Sung, grew even stronger.

The truth and myths of the Kim dynasty

Rising star

Historians outside North Korea believe Kim Jong Il was born in a military camp in eastern Russia, most likely in 1941. However, the leader's official biography claims it happened on the sacred Korean mountain Paektu, exactly 30 years after his father, on April 15, 1942. A North Korean legend says the birth was blessed by a new star and a double rainbow.

The truth and myths of the Kim dynasty

Family trouble

Kim Jong Il had three sons and two daughters with three different women. This 1981 photo shows Kim Jong Il sitting besides his son Kim Jong Nam, with his sister-in-law and her two children in the background. Kim Jong Nam was eventually assassinated in 2017.

The truth and myths of the Kim dynasty

Grooming a successor

In 2009, Western media reported that Kim Jong Il had picked his youngest son, Kim Jong Un, to take over as the head of the regime. The two appeared together at a military parade on 2010, a year before Kim Jong Il passed away.

The truth and myths of the Kim dynasty

Together

According to Pyongyang, the death of Kim Jong Il in 2011 was marked by a series of mysterious events. State media reported that ice snapped loudly at a lake on the Paektu mountain during a sudden snowstorm, with a glowing message appearing on the rocks. After Kim Jong Il's death, a 22-meter (72-foot) statue of him was erected next to the one of his father (l.) in Pyongyang.

The truth and myths of the Kim dynasty

Mysterious past

Kim Jong Un mostly stayed out of the spotlight before his ascent to power. His exact age is disputed, but he is believed to have been born between 1982 and 1984. He was reportedly educated in Switzerland. In 2013, he surprised the world by meeting with former NBA star Dennis Rodman in Pyongyang.

The truth and myths of the Kim dynasty

A new cult

Like the leaders before him, Kim Jong Un is hallowed by the state's totalitarian regime. In 2015, South Korean media reported about a new teacher's manual in the North that claimed Kim Jong Un could drive at the age of 3. In 2017, state media said that a monument to the young leader would be build on Mount Paektu.

The truth and myths of the Kim dynasty

A Kim with a hydrogen bomb

Altough Kim took power at a younger age and with less of a public profile than his father and grandfather, he has managed to maintain his grip on power. The assassination of his half-brother Kim Jong Nam in 2017 served to cement his reputation abroad as a merciless dictator. The North Korean leader has also vastly expanded the country's nuclear arsenal.

'Massive military response'

Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary James Mattis said Washington will respond with a "massive" retaliation to any threat to the US or its allies in the region.

"Any threat to the United States or its territories, including Guam, or our allies will be met with a massive military response, a response both effective and overwhelming," Mattis said.

The US was "not looking to the total annihilation of a country," but had "many options to do so," Mattis added. Mattis' remarks came as the White House considered an appropriate response to the escalating crisis.

US President Donald Trump was briefed on all possible military options against North Korea during a meeting with his national security team on Sunday, Mattis said.

South Korea's "talk of appeasement" with North Korea will not work, Trump said, adding that Pyongyang will "only understand one thing."

Infografik North Korea's missile ranges

'Undermines peace and security'

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, agreed to "appropriately deal with" North Korea's nuclear test, China's state news agency Xinhua reported.

Read more: North Korea: From war to nuclear weapons

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said North Korea's "nuclear and missile development programs pose a new level of a grave and immediate threat" and "seriously undermines the peace and security of the region." Abe also called Trump to discuss the test, according to a White House statement issued late on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull responded to the nuclear test by describing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as "cruel and evil," adding that China could do more to stop his aggression.

Faces of the Korean War

Abandoned in the rubble

The armistice agreement on July 27, 1953 marked the end of almost three years of war. In September 1950, all alone, this girl cries desperately in the ruins of Incheon. The child's identity is unknown. Shortly before this picture was taken, American troops had retaken the South Korean city from North Korean troops. At this stage of the conflict it all pointed to a South Korean victory.

Faces of the Korean War

Caught between the lines

This family's hut is located in the border area between the warring North and South. By the summer of 1951, the conflict had become static, taking place mainly along the 38th parallel.

Faces of the Korean War

A constant flow of refugees

These North Korean refugees try to escape the fierce battles that have been raging on since 1951. On their way south they pass by frozen rice fields.

Faces of the Korean War

Heading south

A Korean civilian carries his father on his back as they cross the Han River in 1951. Despite the counter offensive launched by UN forces to stop the Chinese and North Korean troops, Korean civilians continued to flee the northern Korean region.

Faces of the Korean War

Uprooted

A total of 4.5 million North Koreans left their homes because of the war and headed south or abroad. Its unclear how many people lost their lives during the three-year conflict. By the time the armistice agreement was signed in 1953, North Korea had lost half of its pre-war population.

Faces of the Korean War

Left in ruins

Carrying her wounded grandchild on her back, this elderly woman wanders among the debris of their wrecked home in the aftermath of an air raid by US planes over Pyongyang, the Communist capital of North Korea, in the fall of 1950.

Faces of the Korean War

Foreign rescuers

A fateful encounter: In the cold of winter, US lieutenant William Doernbach comes across this Korean orphan girl in a deserted village and leaves her in the care of an orphanage. She escapes the orphanage and finds her rescuer. They reunite in May 1951.

rs,ls,jbh/msh (dpa, Reuters, AP, AFP)