US calls on Germany to cut diplomatic ties with North Korea

The United States has asked countries that still have diplomatic relations with North Korea to break those ties, citing Germany in particular. Sweden and Britain also currently have representation in the reclusive state.

In its latest push to isolate Pyongyang, Washington urged on Wednesday for countries to take action against North Korea and break diplomatic ties with the reclusive state if they still have them.

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DW News | 29.11.2017

Could new North Korean missile hit US?

US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said cutting ties and reducing the number of "guest workers" would put pressure on North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program.

Early on Wednesday, North Korea launched a new type of long-range intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) called a Hwasong-15.

Read moreNorth Korea: Unwanted war 'closer,' US warns

Although Nauert's call was directed at all countries, she cited Germany in particular when asked a follow-up question by a DW reporter.

"Would you also want Germany to recall the ambassador or end diplomatic relations? Or is that maybe an important channel of communication, also for the US?" asked DW's Carsten von Nahmen.

The spokeswoman noted that the German government had been helpful in combatting North Korea's "guest worker" system, wherein forced laborers work in foreign countries and allegedly send back money that ends up helping leader Kim Jong Un's regime.

But Berlin, and others, could do more, according to the US.

"We would continue to ask Germany or other countries around the world to recall those ambassadors," Nauert said, adding that Washington is continuing to have conversations with several countries to "shrink the footprint that North Korea has in any given country."

The US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley echoed these comments in remarks at a UN Security Council meeting on North Korea later on Wednesday, saying "all countries should sever diplomatic relations with North Korea" and "cut off trade with the regime."

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Germany, Russia reject US request

Jürgen Hardt, a member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats and the government's coordinator for Transatlantic Cooperation, rejected the call to cut ties with North Korea on Thursday.

He said that Germany "shouldn't follow" Washington's request to withdraw its ambassadors from Pyongyang.

Hardt said that since a diplomatic solution is the only way out of the North Korea crisis, "we cannot solely rely on the Chinese or the Russian embassies in North Korea."

The CDU politician added that it's "good that Europe — and thereby the West — has an anchor in Pyongyang with the German embassy."

Moscow likewise rejected Washington's call for countries to sever diplomatic ties with North Korea.

"It's as if the recent actions of the United States are consciously directed to provoke Pyongyang towards other radical actions," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told journalists in Minsk.

Infografik Haltung zu Nordkorea ENG

Germany's diplomatic ties with Pyongyang

Along with Germany, Britain and Sweden have diplomatic representation in North Korea and share a compound in Pyongyang.

Russia and China, North Korea's closest allies, have embassies and consulates in the country while India, Pakistan, Poland and other countries also have diplomatic representation.

North Korea's ties with Germany are largely a remnant of former East Germany's diplomatic relations the country. Following German reunification, North Korea's embassy in eastern Berlin was turned into an "Office for the Protection of the Interests of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)" with China acting as a protective power. Reunified Germany later established diplomatic relations in 2001.

Read moreJapan 'ghost ships' drifting from desperate North Korea


Major achievement

In early June 2017, North Korea test-launched an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) for the first time. Testing an ICBM marked a major military achievement for Pyongyang and a serious escalation of tensions with the United States and its allies in the region, particularly South Korea and Japan.


Trouble with warheads

At the time, defense experts said the ICBM could reach as far as the US states of Alaska and Hawaii. However, it was unclear if North Korea can field an ICBM capable of carrying a nuclear warhead on its cone that could survive reentry into the Earth's atmosphere. North Korean state media claimed the ICBM was capable of carrying a "large, heavy nuclear warhead" to any part of the United States.


Pyongyang's nuclear tests - six times and counting

The ICBM is believed to be a step forward in the North's nuclear program. Despite pressure from the international community, Pyongyang has made no secret of its nuclear ambitions. Alongside its ritual ballistic missile tests, North Korea has conducted nuclear tests on at least six occasions, including one in September 2017.


US running out of patience?

Responding to the first ICBM test with a show of force, the US and South Korean troops on conducted "deep strike" precision missile drills using Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) and the Republic of Korea's Hyunmoo Missile II. In April, the US sent its Carl Vinson aircraft carrier towards the Korean Peninsula, saying it was taking prudent measures against the North.


Testing the boundaries

Ignoring international condemnation, Pyongyang test-launched another rocket on July 28, 2017, just weeks after its first ICBM test. In both of the tests, North Korea used Hwasong-14 missile, but the second one reached a higher altitude and traveled a larger distance than the first one, according to the state media.


Whole of US within range?

Pyongyang conducted its third test November 29, using a newly developed Hwasong-15 missile. US, Japanese and South Korean officials said it rose to about 4,500 km (2,800 miles) and flew 960 kilometers (600 miles) over about 50 minutes before landing in Japan's exclusive economic zone off the country's coast.


One of the world's largest militaries

Apart from a developing missile and nuclear program, North Korea has a powerful army with 700,000 active troops and another 4.5 million in the reserves. It can call upon almost a quarter of its population to serve in the army at any given time. The North's bloated army is believed to outnumber its southern neighbor's by two-to-one.


Vast capabilities

According to the 2017 Global Firepower Index, the North has, as part of a far-reaching arsenal, 458 fighter aircraft, 5,025 combat tanks, 76 submarines, and 5,200,000 total military personnel. The picture above from 2013 shows leader Kim Jong Un ordering strategic rocket forces to be on standby to strike US and South Korean targets at any time.


Enemies all around

Alongside the United States, Pyongyang views its neighbors South Korea and Japan as its two other main enemies. North Korea has used US military exercises in the region as means of galvanizing its people, claiming that the exercises are dress rehearsals for an impending invasion.


Huge, colorful demonstrations of military might

Every year, hundreds of thousands of soldiers and citizens roll through the streets of the capital Pyongyang to take part in the North's military parades. Preparations for the rallies often begin months in advance, and the parades usually mark important anniversaries linked with the Communist Party or Kim Jong Un's family.

The reclusive state's embassy in Berlin made headlines earlier this year when the German government moved to implement a new raft of UN sanctions which also barred North Korea from renting out diplomatic property for profit — including a youth hostel in the heart of the German capital.

The Berlin City Hostel, located not far from the famous Brandenburg Gate, rents its building from North Korea's embassy and reportedly pays around €38,000 ($45,100) per month.

Under pressure from the German government, North Korea canceled its rental agreement, but the hostel is still operating as the challenge the move in court.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.