Pope Francis said Saturday that he does not think “humanity today could bear” a war with North Korea, and called for diplomacy and a revived United Nations to take the lead in negotiating a resolution.
"Today, a wider war will destroy not a small part of humanity, but a good part of humanity and culture. Everything. Everything, no? It would be terrible. I don't think humanity today could bear it," he told reporters while travelling back to Rome from Egypt.
The pope was asked specifically what he would tell President Trump, who has sent a U.S. carrier to conduct drills near the Koreas, and other leads to try to diffuse the tensions. Francis said he would urge them to use diplomacy a negotiation “because it’s the future of humanity.” He added that the U.N. should regain its leadership in conflict resolution, saying it had been "watered down" over time.
Trump has sent a nuclear-powered submarine and the USS Carl Vinson aircraft supercarrier to Korean waters, and North Korea this week conducted large-scale, live-fire exercises on its eastern coast. The U.S. and South Korea also started installing a missile defense system that is supposed to be partially operational within days, and their navies began joint military drills on Saturday.
Tensions with the North presumably would be on the agenda of a Trump-Francis meeting. The White House has said it would reach out to the Vatican to arrange an audience when Trump travels to Sicily at the end of May for a G7 summit.
Francis’ comments came hours after North Korea tested a mid-range ballistic missile, but it apparently failed – the third flop of the month.
On Friday, the U.N. Security Council held a ministerial meeting on Pyongyang's escalating weapons program. North Korean officials boycotted the meeting, which was chaired by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.