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German foreign minister praises US quest for dialogue with North Korea

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel welcomed news that the US is seeking opportunities for dialogue with North Korea and called on Washington to pursue a comparable approach towards Iran.

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel lauded the US' attempts to open up dialogue with Pyongyang following a war of words between US President Donald Trump and North Korea.

The minister's comments Sunday came in response to revelations by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that the Trump administration is "probing" opportunities for dialogue with North Korean officials.

"This is exactly the right direction and a courageous step for the US," Gabriel said. "North Korea would be well advised to take this offer of talks seriously." 

But Trump later on Sunday said his chief diplomat was "wasting his time" in trying to negotiate with North Korea, telling him to save his energy regarding "Little Rocket Man."

Trump told the United Nations last month that he was prepared to "totally destroy North Korea." 

Iran offer

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel addresses broadcast journalists with their microphones extended to him

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel urged the US to take simiar steps with Iran

While welcoming Tillerson's announcement, Gabriel called on Washington to take a similar step with Iran. 

Going back on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal which was signed by former US President Barack Obama, would, Gabriel added, risk undermining Washington's credibility in negotiating with North Korea.

But US President Donald Trump has campaigned relentlessly against the nuclear deal with Iran, calling it "an embarrassment," vowing to withdraw the US from the agreement.

Watch video 02:15

US and North Korea in dangerous war of words

Since taking office in January, Trump has resisted pulling the plug on the deal though he continues to threaten to do so.

Germany is one of the few Western democracies with an embassy in Pyongyang.  It has been pushing for peaceful solutions to ease tensions along the Korean peninsula and slammed Trump's more bombastic rhetoric regarding the North's rapidly developing nuclear program.

Meanwhile, Italy has announced it will expel North Korea's ambassador in protest against Pyongyang's developing nuclear program, according to Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano.

President Donald Trump and North Korean President Kim Jong on a giant TV screen in Seoul, South Korea.

US President Donald Trump and North Korean President Kim Jong Un

"The ambassador will have to leave Italy," Alfano said. "We want to impress on Pyongyang that isolation is inevitable if they don't change tack."

The minister added that Madrid has declared the North Korean ambassador to Spain "persona non grata," while Portugal had broken off diplomatic ties with Pyongyang altogether.

aw, bik/jlw (Reuters, dpa, AP, AFP)

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