Pope urges mediation to end N.Korea crisis, avert devastating war

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE, April 29 (Reuters) - Pope Francis said on Saturday a third country, such as Norway, should try to mediate the dispute between North Korea and Washington, to cool a situation that had become "too hot" and posed the risk of nuclear devastation.

Francis said he believed "a good part of humanity" would be destroyed in any widespread war.

Speaking to reporters aboard the plane taking him back from Cairo, Francis also said he was ready to meet U.S. President Donald Trump when he is in Europe next month but that he was not aware that Washington had made a request for a meeting.

In answer to a question about the tensions between the United States and North Korea, Francis said the United Nations should re-assert its leadership in world diplomacy because it had become "too watered down."

"I call on, and will call on, all leaders, as I have called on leaders of various places, to work to seek a solution to problems through the path of diplomacy," he said about the North Korea crisis.

Satellite images of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in North Korea:

26 PHOTOS
Satellite images of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in North Korea
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Satellite images of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in North Korea
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - APRIL 2, 2017. Figure 1. Activity continues at the North Portal. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - APRIL 2, 2017. Figure 2. Possible new dumping observed at the North Portal spoil pile. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - APRIL 2, 2017. Figure 3. Probable personnel in formation or equipment in rows at the Main Administrative Area. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 30, 2017. Figure 1. No vehicles or trailers remain around the North Portal but well-worn paths are observed. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 30, 2017. Figure 2. No new dumping of material on the North Portal spoil pile. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 30, 2017. Figure 3. Small collection of crates or trailers seen in previous imagery has been removed. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 28, 2017. Figure 3B. Formations seen in the Main Administrative Area, similar to what was seen in lead up to 2013 nuclear test. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 28, 2017. Figure 2. Material dumped at the North Portal tailings pile. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - JANUARY 4, 2013. Figure 3A. Formations seen in the Main Administrative Area in lead up to 2013 nuclear test. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 28, 2017. Figure 1. Continued activity at the North Portal. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 25, 2017. Figure 1. Probable cabling and water drainage seen at the North Portal. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - OCTOBER 19th, 2016: Figure 6: Excavation continued underground in the North Portal area suggesting more tests to come in the same tunnel complex directly under Mt. Mantap. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - JANUARY 5th, 2017: Figure 7: The North Portal spoil pile continued to expand into 2017, becoming increasingly broader. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - JANUARY 22nd, 2017: Figure 8: Late January 2017 imagery showing new spoil on top of recent snow. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - OCTOBER 19th, 2016: Figure 9. A close-up of the North Portal spoil pile as it appeared in late October 2016. The unstable spoil can sometimes lead to accidents, as in this case of toppled rail cars downslope. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 12th, 2017: Figure 10. A close-up of the North Portal spoil pile from February 2017 shows that accumulations had begun move westward with a broadening of the top and bottom west side of the pile. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 7th, 2017: Figure 1. DigitalGlobe imagery showing large shipping container or crate seen at the North Portal. Date: March 7, 2017. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 7th, 2017: Figure 2. DigitalGlobe imagery showing no changes to pattern and texture of tailings (spoil) pile at the North Portal. Date: March 7, 2017. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 7th, 2017: Figure 3. DigitalGlobe imagery showing a small vehicle present at the West Portal. Date: March 7, 2017. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 7th, 2017: Figure 4. DigitalGlobe imagery showing a truck present in the southern courtyard of the Main Administrative Area. Date: March 7, 2017. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 7th, 2017: Figure 5. DigitalGlobe imagery showing a truck present at the sites Command Center. Date: March 7, 2017. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - MARCH 7th, 2017: Figure 6. DigitalGlobe imagery showing snow cleared at guard barrack and security checkpoint. Date: March 7, 2017. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - OCTOBER 24, 2016: Figure 2. No activity seen at the Sohae launch pad. Date: October 24, 2016. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - OCTOBER 24, 2016: Figure 3. Environmental shed remains adjacent to the vertical engine test stand. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
PUNGGYE-RI NUCLEAR TEST SITE, NORTH KOREA - OCTOBER 29, 2016: Figure 1C. Increased activity around the North Portal throughout October. Date: October 29, 2016. (Photo DigitalGlobe/38 North via Getty Images)
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Representatives for the White House did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Francis spoke after North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile shortly after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned that failure to curb Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic missile programs could lead to "catastrophic consequences."

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

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

The pope expressed his deep concern over the crisis, saying: "This question of missiles in (North) Korea has been brewing for more than a year but now it seems the situation has become has become too hot."

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 would be able to withstand it."

Trump is due in Sicily on May 26-27 for a meeting of the heads of the world's richest nations. The White House has not yet said if he would be stopping in Rome to meet the pope, which would be an unusual omission for a visiting head of state.

Asked if he would be meeting Trump, the pope said he had not yet been informed if a request had been made, but added: "I receive every head of state who asks for an audience." (Additional reporting by Susan Heavey in Washington; Editing by Robin Pomeroy and Mary Milliken)

RELATED: Photojournalist captures North Korea's celebration of leader Kim Il Sung:

21 PHOTOS
Photojournalist captures North Korea's celebration of leader Kim Il Sung
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Photojournalist captures North Korea's celebration of leader Kim Il Sung
People walk between buildings after the opening ceremony of a newly constructed residential complex in Ryomyong street in Pyongyang, North Korea April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
North Korean soldiers march as they visit the newly constructed residential complex after its opening ceremony in Ryomyong street in Pyongyang, North Korea April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Thousands of people arrive for an opening ceremony of a newly constructed residential complex in Ryomyong street in Pyongyang, North Korea April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
People carry flags after an opening ceremony for the newly constructed residential complex in Ryomyong street in Pyongyang, North Korea April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Men wearing uniforms check a newly constructed residential complex after its opening ceremony in Ryomyong street in Pyongyang, North Korea April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Women dressed in traditional costumes walk near the main Kim Il Sung square in central Pyongyang, North Korea April 11, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Women wear traditional clothes as North Korea prepares to mark Saturday's 105th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, North Korea's founding father and grandfather of the current ruler, in central Pyongyang, North Korea April 12, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
A man walks the the street decorated with flags as North Korea prepares to mark Saturday's 105th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, North Korea's founding father and grandfather of the current ruler, in central Pyongyang, North Korea April 12, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
People practice for the expected parade on the main Kim Il-Sung Square in central Pyongyang, North Korea April 12, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Military officers visit the birthplace of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, a day before the 105th anniversary of his birth, in Mangyongdae, just outside Pyongyang, North Korea April 14, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
People react as a vehicle carrying foreign reporters passes towards the newly constructed residential complex before its opening in Ryomyong street in Pyongyang, North Korea April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Portraits of North Korea founder Kim Il Sung and late leader Kim Jong Il glow as people take part in a mass dance event marking the 105th birth anniversary of Kim Il Sung in Pyongyang, North Korea April 15, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Soldiers check their souvenir photo as they visit the flower exhibition marking the 105th birth anniversary of the country's founding father, Kim Il Sung in Pyongyang, North Korea April 16, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
People sweep in front of statues of former North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il in central Pyongyang, North Korea April 12, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
People enjoy the Munsu water park in Pyongyang, North Korea April 16, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
People wait in line for a water slide as they enjoy the Munsu water park in Pyongyang, North Korea April 16, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
People gather at the entrance of a zoo in Pyongyang, North Korea April 16, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
Twin girls enjoy their time in a zoo in Pyongyang, North Korea April 16, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
People travel on escalators to enter a subway station in central Pyongyang, North Korea April 14, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
The sun set in Pyongyang, North Korea April 12, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
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