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German president calls for dialogue, pressure to build peace with N. Korea

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Friday that dialogue is the only way to ease tensions and seek peace and reunification between the two Koreas.

In his speech at a forum held in Seoul, he also emphasized the importance of continued pressure and strong multilateral sanctions to bring the North to meaningful talks on its nuclear program.

"I am sure that North Korea will not come out to talks with sincerity without comprehensive political pressure and strong multilateral sanctions measures," Steinmeier said. "This is an experience we have learned from (nuclear) negotiations with Iran."

"However, it is also true that dialogue is the only way to lower tension and eventually secure a chance for peace and reunification," he added.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier talks with National Assembly Speaker Chung Se-kyun at a forum held in Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap)
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier talks with National Assembly Speaker Chung Se-kyun at a forum held in Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap)

He is in South Korea to attend the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics slated for late Friday. He met with President Moon Jae-in on Thursday to discuss cooperation between the two countries.

"To seriously explore solutions based on dialogue, it is necessary to maintain political pressure and at the same time come up with ways and proposals for a better future," he said. "In a nutshell, we should have hope."

He shared Germany's experience from its reunification nearly three decades ago, citing challenges in the process of consolidating the two divided countries.

"For the German people, the reunification was not the end of history but the beginning of a new, exciting and very successful chapter of history," he said.

He admitted that South Korea is in quite a different position from Germany, which went through reunification nearly three decades ago, citing a longer period of division between the two Koreas and the growing threat from the North's nuclear program.

He noted that there is no better time and place than now and in South Korea as the country hosts the Winter Olympic Games for a reminder that the Olympics is all about peace.

The president emphasized the importance of making the Olympics a peaceful event and said that it could raise "new hope" at least for a few weeks.

"It is very timely to remind ourselves of the peace spirit of the Olympics now and here on the Korean Peninsula after the whole East Asian region has gone through a year of heightened tensions," he said.

"A peaceful Olympics might not lead directly to change the current situation, but at least for just a few weeks it could make it possible to change the point of view and even make us have new hope," he noted.

He nevertheless cautioned against expecting too much from the recently resumed inter-Korean talks and the peaceful mood created by the North's participation in the Olympic Games, given that the relations between the two Koreas have been long frozen.

It is important that the momentum for talks should be maintained even after the Olympics and that a new format other than inter-Korean contacts should be explored to deal with the North's nuclear issue, he said.

"There is no single solution to resolve everything all at once," he said. "It is still necessary to maintain momentum for talks even after the Olympics end. But don't have too much expectation.

"Inter-Korean talks cannot resolve the North's nuclear issue. The talks between the Koreas would be successful should they bring out achievements from a humanitarian perspective. There should be a different format to resolve the North's nuclear issue," he added. (Yonhap)