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Europe

European Press Review: Disarming the Axis of Evil

After North Korea offered to refrain from testing and producing nuclear weapons in what it said was a bold concession to the United States, editorials across Europe examined the reasons behind the action.

The Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung reflected on the move by Pyongyang to follow in the footsteps of its fellow countries in the so-called axis of evil as a possible reaction to the way Iraq has been rid of a dictator. "It’s almost as if overnight it’s no longer desirable to be caught in possession of weapons of mass destruction," the paper wrote. In past and present-day power politics, nuclear weapons are used as a bargaining tool. However, the paper contended, in the case of North Korea, that has become somewhat of a non-starter resulting in Pyongyang’s invitation to allow U.S. inspectors to visit its nuclear sites.

Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung was rather more skeptical about North Korea’s latest apparent willingness to rethink its nuclear weapons program. "To describe the concessions as ‘brave’ as touted by the official North Korean news agency is in itself a rather brave statement given the country’s past record on that account," the paper observed, noting it was only a day earlier that other state-run media were taking the usual uncompromising stance. The reticent reactions by North Korea’s negotiating partners are "more than understandable" in this context, the German daily concluded.

Britain’s left-leaning Independent took the story a step further by saying that the one country in the Middle East with an active nuclear weapons program should also consider reviewing its ambitions. The paper was referring to Israel and its refusal to comment on its stockpile of nuclear weapons. While that stance may have been legitimate when there was a tangible threat coming from Iraq, the end of that dictatorship and Iran’s decision to sign the additional protocol on nuclear non-proliferation have made Israel’s position less tenable.

On another issue, The Guardian focused on relations between India and Pakistan and pointed out that there is plenty to praise following the latest talks between the countries’ two leaders. The decision to open a formal dialogue on all the divisive issues is a major step forward, the paper commented. Nevertheless, it cautioned against too much exuberance saying that lasting success will only be achieved if both sides are patient and learn to trust each other. The latter has clearly been lacking in the past, the paper asserted. At the end of the day, this is a tremendous opportunity for reconciliation between the two nations.

As for a British subject, the launch of the coroner’s inquest of Princess Diana’s death has captured the imagination of Germany’s biggest-selling tabloid, the Bild Zeitung. However, the paper focused less on the actual probe than on revelations made by Diana in a letter that Prince Charles was plotting to have her killed in a car crash. "Diana’s terrible allegations against Charles" and "Di’s revenge from the grave" were the headlines plastered across the newspaper. The paper asked if Diana’s deadly car crash in Paris was a murder plot and pondered whether Diana really was convinced that Charles wanted her out of the way so he could marry Camilla Parker Bowles.