Pope Francis warns war over North Korea could destroy 'a good part of humanity'

(Reuters)Pope Francis talks to journalist on the papal plane during his flight to Manila.

Pope Francis has warned that "a good part of humanity" will be destroyed if military tensions with North Korea continue to escalate over its weapons' program.

The Pope urged diplomacy and for the United Nations to take the lead in negotiations as the United States warned of "catastrophic" consequences if North Korea is not stopped.

Francis was speaking April 29 aboard his plane in a 30-minute press conference as he returned to Rome from a two-day trip to Egypt.

He spoke soon after the North Korea government was reported to have fired another failed ballistic missile from Pukchang Airfield on April 27.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who previously said the United States could "absolutely" go to war over Kim Jong-un's nuclear threat, has sent an American aircraft carrier and other ships to conduct drills near the Koreas, the Evening Standard reported.

Trump had told Reuters news agency during the week there was a chance "that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea."

The U.S. president's remarks were seen as undercutting remarks by others in his administration to ease the dispute by raising the possibility of direct negotiations between the United States and North Korea, The New York Times reported.

Asked what he would tell Trump in the face of the crisis, Francis said he would urge him to use diplomacy and negotiation.

He said, "We are talking about the future of humanity. Today, a widespread war would destroy - I would not say half of humanity - but a good part of humanity, and of culture, everything, everything.

"It would be terrible. I don't think that humanity today could bear it."

Pope Francis urged the United States and North Korea to defuse their escalating standoff and avert a potentially horrific conflict.

"I call on them, and I will call on them, as I have on leaders of different places, to work to resolve their problems through diplomatic avenues," said the pontiff aboard his plane as he returned to Rome.

He noted that North Korea's missile program is not a new concern, but "things have gotten too hot" and he indicated that "the United Nations has the duty to reassume, a little, its leadership because it's been watered down," The New York Times reported.

On April 28, the U.N. Security Council held a ministerial meeting on North Korea's intensifying weapons program, but diplomats from Pyongyang did not attend the meeting, chaired by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

There are so many facilitators in the world, there are mediators who offer themselves, such as Norway for example," Pope Francis said during his now customary news conference with reporters at the end of each trip, Reuters reported.

"It (Norway) is always ready to help. That is just one but there are many. But the path is the path of negotiations, of a diplomatic solution," he said in the discussion, which lasted about 30 minutes.

Norway had secretly negotiated an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians known as the Oslo Accords in the early 1990s.

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