Germany to continue diplomatic ties with North Korea, CDU's Jürgen Hardt tells DW

Berlin is unlikely to sever ties amid US warnings, said Germany's coordinator for transatlantic cooperation. In an interview with DW, he said Germany's mission may contribute to a solution.

Germany is likely to continue its diplomatic presence in North Korea after the US called on Berlin to reconsider its ties with the communist nation, Jürgen Hardt, a member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats and the government's coordinator for transatlantic cooperation, told DW.

"At the end of the day … a diplomatic solution [will be] necessary for the conflict with North Korea," Hardt said.

"It's good that the Western world and Europe has not only eyes and ears from China and Russia in Pyongyang, but also from Europe, and therefore the German embassy should be open," he added. Germany officially established diplomatic relations with North Korea in 2001.

Read more: North Korea: From war to nuclear weapons

US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert on Wednesday said Washington would continue to ask "Germany and other countries around the world to recall those ambassadors." 

Washington has upped pressure on countries with a diplomatic presence in North Korea in a bid to "shrink the footprint that North Korea has in any given country."

Deutschland Koordinator für Transatlantische Zusammenarbeit | Jürgen Hardt

Hardt told DW that more needed to be done to pressure Pyongyang to end its nuclear and ballistic missiles programs, but cutting diplomatic ties was not one of the choices

State Department clarifies

Given the apparent contradiction between "recalling ambassadors" and shrinking the "North Korean footprint in any given country," DW requested clarification from the State Department, receiving the following response:

"Ms. Nauert's meaning was to reduce the DPRK's diplomatic footprint in countries abroad rather than recalling the German ambassador to North Korea."

Later on Thursday, after a meeting with his US counterpart Rex Tillerson, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel announced precisely such a measure. He said Berlin planned further cuts to Germany's diplomatic presence in Pyongyang, but not the total closure of the embassy. Gabriel said Berlin would also instruct Pyongyang to again downsize its German embassy team.

"There is no US requirement for Germany to close the German embassy in Pyongyang," Gabriel told DW. He added that while all options were still on the table, including an embassy closure, that was currently "not our goal."

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'Focus on sanctions'

However, Hardt also told DW that more could be done to pressure North Korea to end its nuclear and ballistic missiles programs.

"We should think about increasing sanctions. We have a strict sanctions regime, but I think we can do more," Hardt said. China, for example, could strengthen sanctions against North Korea and improve the monitoring and control of goods traded between both countries, he added.

Read more: How North Korea survives on an oil-drip from Russia

On the European side, "we should especially focus on sanctions that might tackle the leading political group – the family of the dictator in Pyongyang – especially money coming from outside back to North Korea in the form of dollars of euros," Hardt told DW.

Germany, Britain and Sweden share the former East Germany's embassy compound in North Korea and are expected to continue their diplomatic missions despite Washington's latest warnings. However, Western countries have called for increased measures to curb North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missiles programs after several high-profile tests showed advances in weapons technology.

DW Washington correspondent Carsten von Nahmen contributed to this report.

Infografik North Korea's missile ranges