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Germany

Germany Urges North Korea and Iran to Resume Diplomacy

While on visit in South Korea, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier urged North Korea and Iran to return to diplomacy and work to end the crises over their nuclear ambitions.

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The Demilitarized Zone is the world's last Cold War frontier

Together with his South Korean counterpart, Ban Ki-Moon, Steinmeier called on the two rogue nations to work with the rest of the diplomatic community to resolve the dispute over their nuclear program.

"We both agree that more important than anything is that the Iranian nuclear issues should be peacefully resolved through diplomatic efforts and that Iran should take a sincere attitude to resolve it," Ban told reporters after meeting with the German minister in Seoul on Feb. 19.

Germany, which is part of the so-called EU-3 with Britain and France, has worked to broker a peaceful resolution to the standoff. Earlier this month, though, the UN International Atomic Energy Agency voted to refer Iran to the UN Security Council.

Resuming six-party talks

Steinmeier, who arrived in South Korea as part of a three-nation tour that will also take him to Japan and China, expressed concern about the stalemate in six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program.

"We urge North Korea to return to the negotiations table again and constructively take part in the six-party talks again," he said at the joint press conference.

The multilateral talks, which group the two Koreas, the United States, China, Russia and Japan, produced a joint statement in September on disarming North Korea's nuclear weapons in return for diplomatic, security and energy aid guarantees to the impoverished nation. But Pyongyang has since boycotted the talks.

Remembering the Cold War

Südkorea Soldat Grenze Nordkorea

A South Korean stands guard at an observation post near the Demilitarized Zone

While in South Korea, the German minister toured the inter-Korean border, the world's last Cold War frontier. It was a graphic reminder of what it is like to live in a divided nation, something Steinmeier remembers all too well from his own country's experience.

"The German delegation, along with traveling journalists, was reminded when it viewed the Demilitarized Zone what it is like to live in a divided country," the minister said.

The Demiliarized Zone is a heavily fortified frontier that stretches coast to coast across the Korean peninsula. More than a million North Korean troops face 690,000 South Korean soldiers and about 30,000 US troops.

Comparing the two countries' divided history, the South Korean foreign minister said his country had studied Germany's experience closely in the past 15 years, but declined to say how long it would take before his own country was unified.

Learning from each other

South Korea's Ban said the two Koreas were in the first phase of exchanges and cooperation and that two further phases culminating in eventual unification lay ahead. "Until then, we have lots of work ahead of us," he said.

Germany, for its part, hopes it can learn from South Korea how to stage a successful soccer World Cup. With just over four months until the tournament arrives in Germany, Steinmeier is hoping for some advice from South Korea, which jointly hosted the 2002 event with Japan.

Before departing for Japan on Monday, Steinmeier will meet South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun.

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