Merkel and Schulz spar over North Korea, refugees

Martin Schulz and Angela Merkel  faced off in the only live TV debate before the election on 24 September.

(CNN)German Chancellor Angela Merkel traded blows with her election rival, Martin Schulz, in a live TV debate Sunday night, three weeks before the country's federal election.

The pair sparred over the right course of action in North Korea after Sunday's nuclear bomb test.
President Donald Trump "is not the right person to solve this conflict," said Schulz, leader of the Social Democratic Party, or SPD.
    "Last time, by tweeting, he brought us to the brink of a crisis."
    Germany will need to work with other partners, including Canada, to solve this crisis, Schulz continued. "The problem we have with Trump is that he is unpredictable ... we never know when he will tweet next time."
    He later likened Trump to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, arguing both leaders question democratic values.
    Merkel responded to the question of North Korea with more caution. "I don't think we can solve this without the US President, but we will only consider a peaceful, diplomatic solution," she said.
    "We need the US as a power for peace," she said, "and we need to do everything possible to get them on the right and sensible path."

    The stakes are high

    Sunday night's encounter, the only head-to-head debate of the campaign, had been billed as a moment of potential peril for the Chancellor and a moment of opportunity for Schulz.
    More than 16 million Germans tuned in to watch, according to the Forsa Institute.
    Merkel is running for her fourth term in office and polls show her Christian Democratic Union Party, or CDU, as the clear front-runner in the September 24 vote. But Merkel is not naturally combative and has been criticized for barely mentioning her opponent's name during the campaign.
    She was also accused of threatening to boycott the so-called "duel" if the question-and-answer format was changed to allow the candidates to debate each other directly.
    Merkel did not deny that claim when questioned about it at her annual press conference last week.
    Last night's debate was viewed by more than 16 million Germans.