Since North Korea conducted the sixth nuclear test on September 3, tension on the Korean peninsula have reached a critical point. On September 4, Swiss President Doris Leuthard offered to play a mediatory role in the North Korean crisis. In response, China’s foreign ministry welcomed her proposal.
In a news conference in Bern, Leuthard said Switzerland is prepared to act as a mediator to help resolve the North Korean crisis. Reuters quoted Leuthard as saying that “part of the task would be to find a suitable location for officials — perhaps the countries’ foreign ministers — to meet.”
Leuthard’s offer didn’t come out of nowhere. Besides Swiss “long history of neutral and discreet diplomacy” as she herself mentioned, Switzerland has maintained good relations with North Korea and the Kim family in particular for some time.
It is widely reported that Kim Jong-un went to a Swiss school in the suburb of Liebefeld outside Bern, where his late father Kim Il-sung believed he would receive a good education.
Furthermore, Switzerland is also one of the few countries that still is providing aid to North Korea and has no plans to suspend its humanitarian support in the near future. The head of the Swiss development aid agency in Pyongyang, Thomas Fisler, maintained that “ Switzerland’s humanitarian aid does not depend on a particular political situation,”according to swissinfo.ch.
In response to Leuthard’s offer, on September 5, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said:
China always welcomes and encourages approaches and proposals that are conducive to easing the tensions on the Korean Peninsula, enhancing mutual trust and promoting early resumption of dialogue and settlement of the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue. We also welcome the positive and constructive role of the relevant party in easing the situation and promoting settlement of the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue.
Notably, despite condemnation of North Korea’s latest nuclear test, the Swiss foreign ministry emphasized in a statement released on September 3 that “Switzerland is convinced that the only way of resolving the nuclear and security issues on the Korean peninsula is through a process of diplomatic negotiation.” Furthermore, Leuthard stated: “I think it really is time for dialogue,” a sentiment shared by the Chinese government.
Consequently, when welcoming Switzerland’s “positive and constructive role,” Geng did not forget to mention Switzerland as an example to show that “the call for peaceful settlement of the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue through dialogue and negotiation among the international community is the mainstream. ”